‘Disqualifying’: GOP Senator’s Hold On Pentagon Nominees Is Keeping Out Left-Wing ‘Diversity’ Advocates

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A number of the Pentagon’s military nominees currently blocked by Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville are full-throated advocates for “diversity” initiatives and other parts of the Biden administration’s agenda to reform the military, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of reports and Pentagon materials.

Tuberville has successfully stonewalled over 300 military nominations in the Senate since February in protest of the Pentagon’s policy that funds female service members’ out-of-state travel to seek an abortion. Many of these high-level nominees have vocally supported the Biden administration’s left-wing agenda, such as supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

For example, Air Force Col. Benjamin R. Jonsson, who was selected for the Brigadier General position in January, wrote an op-ed to “white colonels” in 2020 after the death of George Floyd and called on them to address “racial disparity” within Air Force ranks. (RELATED: ‘I Hire For Diversity’: Pentagon Nominees Blocked By GOP Senator Are Pushing Left-Wing Initiatives To Reshape Military)

“In a meeting with other white colonels, I drew attention to the reality that racial tension remains an important issue to address,” Jonsson wrote. “As white colonels, you and I are the biggest barriers to change if we do not personally address racial injustice in our Air Force. Defensiveness is a predictable response by white people to any discussion of racial injustice.”

“If we do not take the time to learn, to show humility, to address our blind spots around race, and to agree that we are not as objective as we think and our system is not as fair as we think, then our Air Force will not rise above George Floyd’s murder,” he wrote in the op-ed.

Jonsson then recommended that “white colonels” read “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo, and wrote that it is time to “give a damn” about racial issues.

“Col. Jonsson builds a self-fulfilling prophecy for institutional racism when he addresses certain segments of the officer corps based on the color of their skin… this op-ed is disqualifying for his promotion,” William Thibeau, Director of the American Military Project at the Center for the American Way of Life and an Army Ranger veteran, told the DCNF. “When I was in the Army, we would joke that every servicemember bleeds ‘red, white, and blue.’ Officers like Col. Jonsson are nonetheless desperate to convince us of our racial differences.”

Jonsson also said in 2021 that discussions over racial issues were necessary at the highest levels to rid the Air Force of its “own unconscious bias” while he was commander of the 6th Air Refueling Wing of MacDill Air Force Base, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

“What we’ve said and what I firmly believe is that diversity, inclusion, valuing diversity and inclusion on our teams, it’s a mission imperative,” Jonsson said, according to Tampa Bay Times. (RELATED: Pentagon Officials Deny They Have ‘Diversity’ Targets, But Their Own Documents Tell A Different Story)

Trump originally signed an executive order in late 2020 which banned elements of critical race theory and certain diversity initiatives as part of military training. The executive order was later rescinded by the Biden administration on Biden’s first day in office in 2021, according to the Department of Labor.

“One of the things that we are aware of and in compliance with is a presidential executive order that has suspended formal training on diversity and inclusion topics,” Jonsson said in reference to Trump’s order, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “But what it didn’t suspend was the discussions that we have at the unit level on these topics, which are, in fact, encouraged by Air Force leadership and expected by me.”

Jonsson is not the only DEI advocate held up by Tuberville’s block. Navy Rear Adm. George M. Wikoff was nominated by Biden for the position of Vice Admiral in January, though like Jonsson, his confirmation has been held up by Tuberville’s blockade. Wikoff authored a memo in 2021 titled “Policy on Diversity and Inclusion” in which he ordered the Navy’s senior leaders to maintain “a diverse and inclusive workplace through recruitment, hiring, and personnel management.”

“We’re trying to eliminate the barriers, open the doors and making sure that we can do that,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Schneider, currently nominated by Biden for the position of four-star general, during a February interview. “That’s really what DEI is getting after, identifying the barriers that currently exist, getting messaging out to the public as to what opportunities do exist and then drawing the talent that we need to continue to excel as a force.”

Schneider was then asked about how service members would know when they’ve made “considerable gains” in pursuing DEI initiatives.

“When we can stop having meetings about it, or when we can stop having specific focused discussions on it – [when it] becomes part of our DNA, then we’ve achieved success,” Schneider said.

Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti was nominated for, and recently stepped into, the role of Chief of Naval Operations after Adm. Michael Gilday relinquished the position on Monday. Franchetti was nominated to take over the role permanently in July – making her the first woman in the Joint Chiefs of Staff – but she only currently serves in an interim capacity due to Tuberville’s blockade.

Franchetti delivered remarks about “allyship” in the Navy during the 2022 Naval Surface Forces Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit.

“Through this conference, we are reaffirming that all members of the Naval Aviation community are responsible to advocate for each other, to embrace and support differences, and to work to create an inclusive environment for each person on our teams,” Franchetti said.

Franchetti worked with the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) earlier this year, according to a LinkedIn post from the DACWITS chair, Shelly Stoneman. Stoneman applauded Franchetti for “prioritizing diversity and inclusion in the Navy.”

Tuberville posted on Twitter Thursday evening that the Senate needs to take a “close look” at the Pentagon’s military nominees, in response to another Tweet calling out Jonsson for his stances on race.

“The Senate needs to do our job and take a close look at these nominees,” Tuberville tweeted. “These jobs are too important not to.”

“If the holds don’t lift by the end of the year, nearly 650 of the more than 850 general and flag officer nominations will be affected… the Department must make every effort to limit the damage caused by this hold,” Department of Defense spokesman Robert Ditchey II told the DCNF.

The White House, Navy and Air Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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