Military Leaders Left Speechless After GOP Rep Asks If The Military Is Ignoring Biden’s Diversity Order

Screenshot / YouTube / US House Armed Services Committee

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Military leaders were briefly rendered speechless Wednesday after Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks asked whether their insistence on merit-based promotions worked against a Biden administration order focused on increasing diversity.

Soon after taking office, President Joe Biden dictated that all federal workplaces, including the Department of Defense (DOD) should “cultivate a workforce that draws from the full diversity of the Nation.” Human resources officers and officials from all branches of the U.S. military defended the military’s ability to promote diversity and adhere to a merit-based system at a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee hearing, but struggled to answer whether their commitment to promote the best qualified individuals contradicted the goals of that order.

“However, this administration has made [diversity, equity and inclusion] front and center through executive order, and that affects the Department of Defense. How do you balance respect for diversity with your duty to a talent-based system?” Banks, who chairs the subcommittee, asked. (RELATED: Space Force Smacks Down General’s Claim They Assign Personnel Based On Red State Abortion, ‘Anti-LGBTQ’ Laws)

“The Army does not utilize demographic goals in its promotion system, and every individual who is eligible for consideration is viewed by the merits of their file,” which has information about past assignments, scores and education, Lt. Gen. Douglas Stitt, deputy chief of staff for Army personnel, said. Members of a promotion board move “those that are deemed best qualified” forward.

“Our process is based solely on the best and most qualifying standard,” Vice Adm. Richard Cheeseman, who serves an equivalent role in the Navy, said.

Counterparts in the Marine Corps, Air Force and Space Force echoed Stitt’s and Cheeseman’s comments.

“Is it fair to say you all are ignoring the presidents’ executive order? Can anyone respond to that?” Banks asked.

Silence blanketed the room for several seconds before Cheeseman volunteered his perspective.

“I don’t think we’re ignoring any specific executive order,” Cheeseman said. “In the Navy we do recognize that diversity can be a force for good as we’re mining talent throughout the country to make sure we have the best and most qualified available. That must be the standard.”

Stitt then added that past assignments and educational background is not the only thing board members consider when determining whether a candidate is ready and qualified for promotion.

Board members are required by statute to adhere to merit-based criteria when considering whether to promote a candidate.

“Under current statute we provide board members guidance on considering diversity in assignment,” he said. “That board member utilizes that in their own internal board voting philosophy and resulting in selection of best qualified once the votes are tabulated,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey, the subcommittee’s ranking member, asked whether promotions are based on merit,  and all the witnesses responded in the affirmative.

“Is race or gender or sexuality considered?” he asked, to which they all responded, “no.”

Recruiters aim to target a broad swath of American society to achieve a recruitment pool that represents the demographics of America, witnesses said. Whether those individuals actually go on to serve and progress through the ranks is not based on skin color or gender, they added.

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