Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. Boykin is Executive Vice President of Family Research Council. This article was co-written with Lt. Col. (Ret.) James Carafano is Vice President of The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. This article appeared in The Federalist on May 16, 2023.
America’s military is facing a major recruiting crisis and growing threats from China and other belligerents. Yet the Biden administration is pushing taxpayer-funded abortions, among other woke agenda items, that are rightfully fueling fears that a politicized Pentagon won’t be able to defend our country.
Whether it’s climate change, subsidizing abortions, or the woke trio of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Defense Department’s top brass is in lockstep with the radical left’s political agenda. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is overseeing these sweeping changes and harming our military’s readiness as a result.
Too few political leaders are standing up to challenge this damaging agenda. Fortunately, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, isn’t shying away from the fight.
Over the past several months, Tuberville has blocked the promotions of senior military officers, refusing to budge until the Pentagon reverses its policy subsidizing abortions. He’s taking heat from Democrats and Republicans, but he’s fully within his rights and consistent with his duties and responsibility as a senator to withhold consent as he demands changes from Pentagon leadership.
Let’s be absolutely clear: The Pentagon’s new abortion policy has everything to do with activist politics and nothing to do with Congress’s obligation to raise and maintain armed forces to provide for the common defense.
After the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, Biden declared his intent to further his radical pro-abortion agenda through every means possible. In February, the Defense Department heeded his directive, circumventing Congress and issuing new policies that allow taxpayer funds to pay for abortions and to indemnify DOD staff who may violate state criminal protections of unborn life.
Tuberville and a growing number of conservative lawmakers, recognize this policy for what it is: an abusive use of political power. Austin’s action is clearly illegal. It’s also immoral.
As the Biden administration and the Defense Department well know, there is a proper and legal way to make new policies. Congress annually considers a National Defense Authorization Act, and there is one awaiting action now. The NDAA is the appropriate venue to make policy for the DOD.
Congress too often cedes its authority to the executive branch, and Tuberville is right to insist on a debate in the House and Senate. Democrats and the Biden administration know they’ll lose that debate, as American taxpayers have firmly rejected the idea of government-subsidized abortions.
Thirty years ago, when the military faced another crisis, members of Congress took steps similar to what Tuberville is doing now. In the early 1990s, senators held up hundreds of Naval officer promotions after the Tailhook fiasco. They did it not only to officers who were directly involved in the stuff at the hotel in Las Vegas, but also others in the aviation community across the Navy, pending the full NCIS investigation.
In that case, Congress wanted to make sure the Navy was being truthful and transparent. In this case, it is about the Defense Department’s respecting the rule of law.
In recent weeks, Austin and past defense secretaries have fired off missives warning of readiness problems. How much Tuberville’s hold affects readiness is hotly debated. Here is what cannot be debated: The greatest threat to military readiness is the actions of a commander-in-chief who imposes unlawful policies and undermines the sanctity of civil-military relations that are the bedrock of well-functioning armed forces. He should be ashamed to put a political agenda ahead of the purpose and mission of the armed forces and the support and well-being of those that serve.
Rather than focusing on confronting serious challenges such as the rise of China and its hegemonic ambitions, Biden and Austin have unnecessarily dragged the military into the middle of a divisive political and social issue and attempted to co-opt military resources in furtherance of an unrelated, partisan, ideological agenda.
Indeed, Tuberville has a case to make that readiness is too important to ignore as part of this debate.
Each year, The Heritage Foundation publishes an “Index of U.S. Military Strength” to gauge the U.S. military’s ability to perform its missions. This year, for the first time, it ranks the military as weak and at growing risk of not being able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.
The significant decline in the propensity to serve among America’s youth is one of the major problems. Increased political polarization and the perception of the military as a “woke” institution is a significant factor.
It’s time for our military to get back to doing the nation’s business and stop imposing a woke agenda on our military. There is a war in Europe, a rising and threatening China, and an open border.
America is a global power with global interests and responsibilities. We can’t afford a military distracted by politics. The quickest way to make this right is for Austin to immediately rescind his radical abortion policy.