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Posted on Mar 7, 2022 Print this Article

People Are Policy: Three Pentagon Nominees Who Do Not Deserve Senate Support

On February 17, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) interviewed four nominees for high-level positions at the Department of Defense.  The Center for Military Readiness is concerned about three: Mr. Ravi Chaudhary, Mr. Franklin R. Parker, and Ms. Agnes Gereben Schaefer.  CMR has encouraged Senators to consider the nominees’ public statements, writings, and previous record in office before voting to confirm these nominations.

1.  Ravi Chaudhary -- Nominated to be Asst. Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and the Environment

Under questioning from several Senators during the February 17 hearing, Mr. Chaudhary repeatedly disavowed an article he had co-authored and recently published in Foreign Policy News:

Chaudhary’s op-ed advocated for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to surveil American military personnel.  The article pointed to two anomalous extremist incidents and a small number of military veterans involved in the January 6 assault on the Capitol as the rationale for seriously proposing “pro-active” electronic surveillance of American military personnel. 

This was not a dashed-off blog post or tweet.  It was a substantial article co-authored with Ty Smith, identified as the CEO of CommSafe AI, a company selling software that monitors and “flags” employee emails to discover objectionable content or toxic behavior.

As stated on the company’s  website, “CommSafe AI’s proprietary algorithms continually inspect all your internal employee email and chat communications and “flags problematic language as well as related responses” on a “word-for-word” basis, including the message’s time, recipient(s) and anyone else on the CC line.

The issue is important in view of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent report, Countering Extremist Activities in the Department of Defense,” which CMR has analyzed:

Mr. Chaudhary repeatedly denounced his own article for “falling short,” but Military.com reports that he served as a consultant to CommSafe AI.  Expedient disavowals aside, the July 2021 op-ed is so over the top, it disqualifies Mr. Chaudhary for the high-level Pentagon position he has been nominated for.   

2.  Franklin R. Parker -- Nominated to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower & Reserve Affairs

It is unfortunate that SASC members did not question Franklin R. Parker about his policy-making record in the same position he is being nominated for now.

Mr. Parker served during the Obama Administration, but three days after the Inauguration of Donald Trump, Parker released a “Diversity Roadmap” imposing radical mandates on the Navy. 

As CMR wrote in an analysis at the time, Parker’s “Diversity & Inclusion Roadmap” promoted demographic “diversity” mandates, which are different from non-discrimination and recognition of individual merit. 

The Navy Roadmap mandated government-sponsored discrimination and promotion of demographic group rights instead of non-discrimination and recognition of individual merit.

The Navy Roadmap called for new enforcement mechanisms, such as “formal assessment structures,” “governance mechanisms,” and “department-wide standards for measuring progress.”  These terms are euphemisms for “gender diversity metrics” and “quotas,” tracked with percentage goals that officers must meet under threat of career penalties if they don’t.

Parker’s “Roadmap” also stated that the Asst. Secretary of the Navy (Manpower & Reserve Affairs) would serve as a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), and an organization chart showed this political officer reporting directly to the Secretary of the Navy, supported by five different Diversity Councils, Working Groups, and Boards, plus two more for the Marine Corps.

These power bases within the Pentagon, which might be called a Military Diversity Complex, will put pressure on officers at all levels to meet demographic diversity goals, measured in numbers and percentages and enforced with implied career penalties for non-compliance.

A vote to confirm Mr. Parker for the same job he held during the Obama Administration could be interpreted as a vote to establish the Navy’s “first ever” Chief Diversity Officer (CDO)

Confirmation would be even more problematic in view of the Report on the Fighting Culture of the Navy’s Surface Fleet, an investigation of evident problems in the Navy fleet, which Sen.  Tom Cotton (R-AR) and three House members requested in July 2021.  When asked about the report, Parker admitted he had not read it.

3.  Agnes Gereben Schaefer -- Nominated to be Asst. Secretary of the Army for Manpower & Reserve Affairs

It is unfortunate that members of the SASC did not question the controversial policies that Ms. Schaefer has promoted as the primary author of several controversial RAND reports prepared for the Department of Defense. 

One of these received justifiable criticism from then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis in a February 22, 2018, Memorandum for the President.  Excerpt:

“The prior administration largely based its policy on a study prepared by the RAND National defense Research Institute; however, that study contained significant shortcomings.  It referred to limited and heavily caveated data to support its conclusions, glossed over the impacts of healthcare costs, readiness, and unit cohesion, and erroneously relied on the selective experiences of foreign militaries with different operational requirements than our own.  In short, this policy issue has proven more complex than the prior administration or RAND assumed.”

Secretary Mattis learned that the military service chiefs serving under President Barack Obama were not consulted before Defense Secretary Ashton Carter revoked the long-standing medical disqualification for persons with gender dysphoria.  He also told Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in April 2018 testimony that the Obama administration’s policy precluded reporting of any problems with the Obama/Carter policy up the chain of command.

“The reason,” Mattis said, “is that under the Carter policy the reporting is opaque.  We cannot report that problems emanated from a transgender. . . [because] the Carter policy prohibited that very information from coming up because it is private information.”

Secretary Mattis added that the military service chiefs serving under President Obama were not consulted before Defense Secretary Ashton Carter revoked the long-standing medical disqualification for persons with gender dysphoria. 

Ms. Schaefer should have been asked about the Defense Department’s current plans to accommodate “nonbinary” personnel, even though DoD officials have not defined what “nonbinary” means.  Does she believe that there is a third “nonbinary” sex among human beings?  And what is her position on women who do not want to share their private facilities and athletic teams with biological men?

Realities regarding women in formerly all-male combat arms units such as the infantry have not lived up to expectations set in RAND reports.  As a result, constant pressure for “diversity” as a “strategic imperative” is changing “norms” used to qualify personnel in the military’s toughest fighting teams, including Special Operations Forces

Ms. Schaefer also should have been questioned about major problems the Army has experienced trying to implement “gender neutral” standards in the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT):

Academic expertise is one thing, but policies that treat women like men in the combat arms are unfair to both women and men, while doing nothing to strengthen military readiness and morale.

The Administration has the right to nominate appointees for high-level Pentagon positions, but Senators who oppose policies advocated by these and other like-minded nominees should express their concerns by withholding votes to confirm the nominations. 

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Prepared by the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization that reports on and analyzes military/social issues.  More information is available at www.cmrlink.org.

Posted on Mar 7, 2022 Print this Article