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Posted on Jan 27, 2022 Print this Article

Issue 66: January 2022

This edition of CMR E-Notes reports the huge challenges that lie ahead.  This year, CMR intends to challenge lawmakers, candidates, and policy makers to endorse and pursue sound policies that will strengthen our military instead of weakening it.  Going on the offensive, CMR has issued a Challenge titled Strengthen Our Military – Secure American Freedoms.

A. CMR Challenge: Strengthen Our Military – Secure American Freedoms

The first year of the Biden/Harris Administration has been hard on our military, particularly when the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of thirteen military personnel and the stranding of many Americans left behind.

Potential showdowns with China, Russia, or North Korea have raised concerns about the condition of our military.  Are “woke” personnel mandates strengthening our military or weakening it?

To raise awareness of the consequences of social engineering, CMR has prepared a brief (2-page) outline of major military/social issues that require informed discussion and decisions in the coming year:

Many of the issues listed were debated last year, and all of them have a direct effect on morale and readiness.  The list of objectives asks policy makers to:

Oppose:

  • Pentagon Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity (DIE) metrics and percentage-based quotas
  • Divisive critical race theory (CRT) instructions in military schools and academies
  • Anti-extremist programs skewed by leftist ideology
  • Registration of Women with Selective Service for a possible future draft
  • Attempts to re-define Selective Servicea step toward mandatory National Service
  • Unreasonable Covid vaccine mandates and personnel discharges

Re-Evaluate and Revise:

  • Results of assigning women to direct ground combat (infantry) units that attack the enemy, to include consequences of “gender-neutral standards,” disproportionate injuries among women, and higher rates of attrition and non-deployability
  • Impact of transgender policies that accommodate gender dysphoria in the military
  • Impact of gender dysphoria policies on medical ethics, personal privacy in female-only living facilities, and biological males competing against military women in athletics

Support:

  • Principles of non-discrimination and recognition of individual merit
  • First Amendment rights, including religious liberty in the military
  • Command accountability for due process and justice in matters of sexual assault
  • “Peace Through Strength” and American military superiority

Interested voters and organizations should ask all candidates for Congress, the Senate, and the presidency to state their positions on each of these issues and more.

The armed forces will respond to better leadership when the political situation changes, but the groundwork for restoration of sound policies must begin now

B. Predicted Consequences from Special Operations Forces “Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Report” Appear to be Playing Out

A recent Air Force Times report revealed an example of what can happen when Pentagon policy makers assign highest priority to “diversity and inclusion” over the needs of the military.

According to the anonymous letter embedded in the article above, in 2018 a female Air Force captain began training with the Special Tactics Training Squadron (STTS), where she aspired to become the first woman to join a combat controller team (CCT).

Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) extended multiple special concessions to the female captain, allowing her to continue in the combat controller course even though she had not met longstanding standards and repeatedly dropped out of essential training events, such as rigorous diving exercises and solo land navigation.

Air Force Times obtained performance forms, score charts and other items that appear to support the whistleblower’s letter, and submitted them for comment to Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

Gen. Slife did not refute specific allegations, citing privacy considerations, but he vehemently denied that AFSOC standards had changed: “While the standards remain the same, the norms have not.”   He added that assertions are “. . . either factually incorrect or missing important context which would completely change the perception.”

This is an equivocation, based on a half-truth.  What General Slife calls “norms” and “context” did change in March 2021, when U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM) Commander General Richard Clarke released his Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan, which CMR analyzed last year:

Twelve times on twenty pages, the SOCOM Strategic Plan asserted without evidence that “Diversity and inclusion are operational imperatives.”  These vacuous, unsupported words were bound to have negative consequences.  Now we see demoralizing turmoil in one of the nation’s most elite fighting forces, and the same thing could be happening elsewhere in SOCOM.

Air Force Special Tactics combat controllers often deploy as “one-man attachments to special forces teams,” such as Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, Delta Force and Marine Raiders.  They are FAA certified, trained in scuba, parachuting and other special forces skills, and are additionally capable of establishing airfields in hostile areas, calling in air strikes, providing communications and other command and control functions, and evacuating fallen colleagues during perilous missions, often behind enemy lines.

The female captain dead-lifted 250 lbs. – an impressive feat – but Special Tactics (ST) operators must deadlift 300 lbs. – a test that is tied to ST mission requirements.

Asked to comment on the case, former Space Force Lt. Col. Matt Lohmeier noted that a man who can lift 400 lbs. still may not be qualified “if he doesn't or cannot meet every single standard required of those outstanding warriors who successfully complete the entirety of the training.  There is a certain mental toughness that cannot be dispensed with, which is why when someone quits the training, they are finished and don't get more chances.”

Nevertheless, when the female captain self-eliminated from strenuous diving and solo land navigation events, AFSOC commanders repeatedly intervened to extend special career options to get her back in the ST training squadron.  In April, she will pick up where she left off.

Bad Policies Have Consequences

Responsibility for these extraordinary concessions, if true, belongs to Richard Torres-Estrada, SOCOM’s “first ever” Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, and his boss, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.

In 2021 Torres-Estrada was removed from the job but his reinstatement coincided with release of the SOCOM Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan.  That document ordered commanders to “ruthlessly reassess our cultural norms” and procedures.

Now we are seeing “evolving” standards achieved under new norms that are not consistent with Special Operations Forces culture.

The anonymous letter author claimed that instead of allowing the female captain to drop out and pursue a good career elsewhere, a combat controller school official informed the training staff that the female captain “WILL graduate . . . [whether] she meets standards or not.  Overall, [she] will gain a coveted ST beret and the title of the first female STO despite the negative effects it has on the rest of the ST community.” (A training command PAO denied the allegation.)

High Attrition Saves Lives in Special Operations

Dropping out of ST training is no disgrace; 75 - 80% of male aspirants do not make it through the three-year course, which is among the most difficult in the world.

Finishing each phase of training without quitting is an essential qualification that is critically important for unit cohesion, which means mutual trust for survival.  Elite personnel embarking on tough missions depend on their team members not quitting, no matter what.

In her book The Company They Keep: Life Inside the U.S. Army Special Forces, Anna Simons, Ph.D., wrote about trainees who voluntarily withdraw (VW):

“The VW is separated from the rest of the group as soon as possible.  They’re not demeaned, but they’re not coddled either.  No one tries to convince a VW that he might be making a mistake or that he should rethink his decision.  SFAS [Special Forces Assessment & Selection] is all about elimination.” (p. 68)

SOCOM apparently overrode these proven cultural practices to meet new norms adopted in 2021: “Diversity and inclusion are operational imperatives.” Relaxed training practices that protect favored trainees from failure are demoralizing and dangerous for everyone concerned.

A confidential Navy source with first-hand experience explained to CMR in an email how this works:  AFSOC commanders have admitted that standards have “evolved,” which is true, since SOCOM changed mission requirements when it assigned priority to diversity and inclusion.

A female trainee’s sex, not her level of accomplishment compared to others in the same community, is deemed the paramount factor.  New norms used to accomplish her graduation, therefore, forgive mediocre performance and voluntary withdrawals from tough training.  All that matters is passing a test indicating that she is “qualified.”

The source continued, “The fact that there are double standards in the training syllabus leading to that qualification doesn’t matter.  For example, two people are given a written test, one is required to provide answers from memory and the other is given a list of the answers.  They both score 100%.  Both are called “equally qualified” because they passed the same test.”

In the Defense Department's Diversity World, poor or marginal performance is the same as excellent performance that exceeds minimal standards.

High-level policy makers see nothing wrong with this. Discriminatory practices that put everyone at greater risk are called “additional opportunities to succeed.” Promotable officers must show success in meeting diversity goals, so career self-interest increases the pressure to make the new norm “work.”

Officials deny that standards have changed, but special operators whose necks are on the line see through the semantics.  New standards and norms were set by the SOCOM Strategic Plan: “Diversity is an operational imperative.”  Pretentious words like that have consequences.

Defensiveness About Diversity Mandates

Deflecting blame for his own questionable decisions as AFSOC Commander, Gen. Slife released a statement that split hairs between “standards” and “norms.”

While training standards remain the same, wrote Slife, “How we bring trainees through the training pipeline today is different than the way we brought them through the pipeline 15 years ago because our understanding of the best way to get trainees to meet standards and be ready to join the operational force has evolved.”

Gen. Slife also attacked the integrity of the unknown whistleblower, writing: “Singling out a fellow service member for public abuse is bullying and harassment, which are unacceptable deviations from both our standards, our norms and values as airmen.”

It is unfortunate that the whistleblower felt it necessary to post an anonymous letter, but the Defense Department does not provide other options for calling out practices that could result in the loss of lives or mission failures.  Questionable practices that rely on unsupported claims about “diversity” should not continue without challenge.

No one should blame the female captain for policies that she did not make.  CMR predicted in 2015 that women receiving special treatment to achieve social goals would be unfairly blamed for flawed policies made by high-level military and civilian officials in the Pentagon.

AFSOC leaders have called for an investigation of how women are being treated, but they are not asking the right questions.  The issue is not about women; it is about priorities.

The nation should not have to rely on whistleblowers to find out whether similar practices are being used in AFSOC or other Special Operations Forces communities.  It is the responsibility of Congress to question both uniformed and civilian commanders and hold them accountable for turning sound priorities and training practices upside down.

CMR will follow and analyze this ongoing story as events develop.

D. Articles of Interest:

* * * * * *

 

CMR E-Notes is a periodic publication of the Center for Military Readiness.  Founded in 1993, CMR is an independent, non-partisan public policy organization that reports on and analyzes military/social issues.  More information is available at www.cmrlink.org.

 

 

C. New Ally in Fight for Sound Military Policies

 

In 2021 a new organization titled Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services, Inc. (STARRS) began spotlighting problems with Critical Race Theory (CRT) instructions and Marxist philosophy being taught at the nation’s military service academies.  Headed by Lt. Gen. USAF (Ret.) Rod Bishop, STARRS favors an apolitical military, and opposes controversial ideologies that divide and demoralize military personnel.

 

On January 7, STARRS Vice President Dr. Ron Scott, Col. USAF (Ret.), conducted an interview with Elaine Donnelly, which is linked here. More information about STARRS is available on their website and in their newsletter.

 

Posted on Jan 27, 2022 Print this Article