GOP report says responding to racism and sexual assault in Navy weakens combat readiness


A study conducted for a group of Republican lawmakers found a few dozen sailors who don't like diversity training.

Republican lawmakers are pointing to a report released on Monday to suggest that the U.S. Navy under President Joe Biden is too focused on combating racism and sexual assault to be effective.

The 22-page document, called "A Report on the Fighting Culture of the United States Navy Surface Fleet," was released by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and GOP Reps. Mike Gallagher (WI), Jim Banks (IN), and Dan Crenshaw (TX). The first page of the report says that it was was written by two retired military officers and "conducted at the direction" of the four lawmakers.

The report's executive summary calls it a "strictly nonpartisan exercise in Congressional oversight." Most of the fewer than 100 interviews conducted for the study took place under the Trump administration.

"This is a travesty of our own making. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines should be focused on fighting and winning wars, not on these divisive policies," tweeted Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) on Wednesday. "Time to take up my bill to prohibit #CRT [critical race theory] in the military."

He linked to a New York Post story published Tuesday and titled "Navy more focused on diversity training than potential China threat: report."

In a press release announcing the report, the lawmakers presented their work as proof that the U.S. Navy is not adequately training its sailors to win battles.

"A strong Navy is critical to our national security interests around the world," Crenshaw said. "The findings clearly indicate that our sailors are not receiving the training they need to perform the essential functions of the Navy: to find and sink enemy fleets and ensure freedom of navigation."

"This report doesn't mince words," Banks said. "At a time when the Navy's readiness is more critical than ever before, this report depicts a Navy leadership that's distracted from the number one threat to American national security: The Chinese Communist Party."

The report says that the reason for the distraction, in part, is a "corrosive over-response to media culture" and "nonessential training" to address diversity and sexual assault prevention. It notes:

While programs to encourage diversity, human sex trafficking prevention, suicide prevention, sexual assault prevention, and others are appropriate, they come with a cost. The non-combat curricula consume Navy resources, clog inboxes, create administrative quagmires, and monopolize precious training time. By weighing down sailors with non-combat related training and administrative burdens, both Congress and Navy leaders risk sending them into battle less prepared and less focused than their opponents.

Far from being a comprehensive assessment, the report focuses on the opinions of a small number of active duty and former U.S. Navy sailors, based on recorded interviews. Just 77 people were interviewed, of which 67 were male and 10 were female.

As of May 31, the Navy employed more than 347,000 people. As of 2018, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that there were 4,346,759 living naval veterans.

The interviews took place between September 2020 and March 2021, meaning the vast majority of that time was during the presidency of Donald Trump. Trump promised in December 2016 that under his leadership, "All men and women in uniform will have the supplies, support, equipment, training, services, medical care and resources they need to get the job done incredibly well and perfectly."

Some of the people interviewed for the Republicans' study were critical of military leadership for spending too much training time teaching about things other than fighting the enemy.

A former destroyer captain is quoted as complaining that "where someone puts their time shows what their priorities are. And we've got so many messages about X, Y, Z appreciation month, or sexual assault prevention, or you name it. We don't even have close to that same level of emphasis on actual warfighting."

"Sometimes I think we care more about whether we have enough diversity officers than if we'll survive a fight with the Chinese navy," said a lieutenant. "It's criminal."

The report provides no evidence that the training is harmful, contributes to a lack of readiness, or is unnecessary.

The Navy has had significant problems with sexual assault in recent years. An April 2020 Defense Department report found the U.S. military continued to struggle to address toxic workplace cultures and sexual violence.

Stars and Stripes reported in 2018 on a study released by the Rand Corp. that found the Navy's installations had the highest risk of sexual assault of any branch of the military. At one installation, more than 17% of female service members said they'd survived a sexual assault in fiscal year 2014.

A much larger survey than the GOP lawmakers' pointed to the importance of anti-racism training. In a 2019 poll by Military Times of 1,630 active-duty service member subscribers, 36% of respondents reported that they had seen evidence of racist and white supremacist ideologies among members of the armed forces; 53% of members of minority groups said they had witnessed racist behavior.

Several congressional Republicans have launched a crusade to stop the military from teaching troops about racism in the United States.

Last Wednesday, Cotton demanded that an Air Force Academy professor be fired after she published an op-ed defending the importance of teaching cadets critical race theory. He further demanded more "oversight of what's being taught to our cadets at the service academies."

Florida Rep. Brian Mast warned in May that "wokeness" was the single greatest threat to the U.S. military.

But in a June appearance before the House Armed Service Committee, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the exact opposite argument, asking, "What is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.