WASHINGTON EXAMINER: How the Navy’s push for diversity and inclusion threatens unity in the ranks

Updated: May 19

This op-ed by Jason Beardsley ran in the Washington Examiner on April 6, 2021: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/how-the-navys-push-for-diversity-and-inclusion-threatens-unity-in-the-ranks

The U.S. Navy says it has a new mission: to create a more diverse group of enlisted sailors and officers.

In February, a Navy task force made dozens of recommendations to accomplish this mission. The broad goal is laudable and draws no objection from the honorable service members I represent.

But the proposed means of reaching that goal threaten to create division in the ranks that distract the Navy from its core mission, which is to “defend freedom, preserve economic prosperity, and keep the seas open and free.”

I say “threaten” because, so far, the Navy’s plan is still a work in progress. The details of how the Navy will start “embracing Inclusion and Diversity (I&D)” still need to be worked out. However, the task force did lay out some ideas that could be a problem.

For example, the report includes a pledge taken by task force members that reads, in part, “I pledge to advocate for and acknowledge all lived experiences and intersectional identities of every Sailor in the Navy.” It’s not clear if all sailors will be required to take this pledge, but press reports have said they will.

Will sailors be required to “advocate” for others with different “lived experiences?” Who decides which “lived experiences” are worthy of advocacy, and how does a sailor prove to leadership that this task has been accomplished?

The report recommends a “whole person evaluation” that reduces the importance of standardized test results when promotions are considered. Instead, the Navy would lean more heavily on characteristics displayed by successful “diverse” Navy officers.

How much less weight will be given to test scores, and how much more weight will be placed on race, gender, and ethnicity?

The report calls for a stipend for college students who apply for the naval officer program as a way of boosting minority applicants. Does that mean this stipend will not be available to nonminority applicants?

These are just a few of the recommendations, but the potential problems seem obvious to us. Sailors may be encouraged to advocate for some shipmates, but not others. Promotions will be easier for some, but not others. A stipend will be created for some, but not others.

This plan runs the risk of creating what the task force set out to avoid: a Navy within a Navy. The key to any effective fighting force is morale, and we shudder to think at the potential morale problems that may be generated by such a bifurcated system.

A related problem may be on the horizon in the Marine Corps. In a February 22 memo, Sgt. Major Troy Black encouraged leaders to intervene whenever they see “any sexism, racism, or other destructive attitudes in the ranks.” Where is the line between an acceptable belief and a “destructive attitude” that merits punishment?

Much like the Navy’s call for “advocacy” on behalf of “lived experiences,” the Marine Corps goes far beyond the current practice of adhering to a time-tested code of conduct and openly discusses delving into the minds of Marines.

“The battle to change a person’s mindset takes time and consistent effort,” Black’s memo said. “Thirteen weeks of recruit training has an impact on changing and overcoming potential flaws with these mindsets, but we need more effort to sustain the transformation.”

The Navy and the Marines could find a reasonable way to carry out these delicate and difficult missions. But given this broad mandate to shape minds, there is reason to worry.

One reason is that the backdrop to this effort is the heated debate taking place throughout our politics, which threatens to ripple through the ranks of our military and erode the unity forged through common experiences.

In our political discourse, we are busy making enemies of anyone who fails to adhere to a hypersensitive dogma that automatically deems people and institutions racist, sexist, and xenophobic. This trend has emerged so quickly that we are tearing down statues of Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson without a second thought.

One likely fear among the enlisted is that this movement will try to cancel other great men and women who fought for this nation over its 244-year history because they didn’t subscribe to this destructive “woke” celebration of self-hate. This “shoot-first-aim-later” mindset could chase out current sailors and Marines who don’t play well with the intolerant mob. Those who remain may at best see a loss of morale, and at worst, may see poor morale turn into loss of life on the battlefield.

The women and men who made this nation great were never honored because they were perfect. They were honored because they rose above their imperfections and put America on a path to becoming a country that embodies hope for everyone.

Today’s service members also fall short of perfection. Our goal should not be to judge them against a standard that divides us, but against a standard that unifies: our code of conduct that demands teamwork and camaraderie among those who have taken the oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

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