By Capt. Brent Ramsey, US Navy ret
STARRS Board of Advisors
Recently there has been an increase in naval threats around the world. The Navy’s readiness and reach is being tested all around the world.
These matters have been documented in detail in the press, by the Heritage Foundation in its comprehensive annual reports, and by the Congressional Research Service.
The nation and its Navy are being challenged, even attacked on the high seas by enemies who no longer fear us.
These are matters of grave concern. Yet, the Navy’s senior leaders continue to promote the notion that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is an essential prerequisite for Navy success and that climate change is one of the Navy’s top threats.
The focus on DEI, climate change, and other social justice interests of the political left are a distraction and a significant diversion of precious resources and time from higher priorities.
These are resources that the Navy can ill afford to squander.
The following are questions about political distractions that are actively promoted in the Navy of 2023 and their import and consequences:
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
• Virtually every website, every announcement proclaims the Navy’s devotion to DEI. DEI is the subject of training, seminars, and conferences. There is evidence that this DEI emphasis is adversely affecting morale, retention, and recruiting.
— What evidence does the Navy have that DEI emphasis is having a positive effect?
• Does the Navy have data that shows DEI emphasis improves readiness or performance?
— If so, why has this data not been provided to the public?
— Does the Navy collect data on the diversity of ship/unit crews and the readiness of diverse crews as opposed to non-diverse crews? If not, why not? If yes, does the data show that diverse crews perform better than non-diverse crews?
— If diverse crews do not perform any better than any other crews, what is the rationale for promoting DEI?
• What is the status of recommendations from Task Force One Navy (TF1N)? The Navy announced with great fanfare the findings of TF1N, but nothing has been published since.
— Did recommended reforms take place? What were the reforms’ impact on diversity in the Navy?
• The 2022 DOD demographics report indicates the Navy is now overly diverse, at 24.1% minorities and 17.6% Hispanic, exceeding the national demographics for both categories. The data indicates that enlisted ranks are slightly overrepresented, and the officer corps is slightly underrepresented.
— When will the Navy be diverse enough?
— Since national demographics are changing continually and rapidly, is it a practical goal to mandate a precise match with national demographics?
— Since the Navy already has thousands of minority officers and the Navy recruits and welcomes minority officers enthusiastically, doesn’t that prove that the Navy has virtually no vestige of racism left?
— Can the Navy justify to the taxpayer a return on investment for the emphasis on DEI and all the positions devoted to DEI throughout the Navy? For example, at the USNA the Navy employs five full time Diversity Office personnel, all black, for an organization that is already extremely diverse with minority midshipmen making up 38.5% of current enrollment.
• DOD climate surveys report that only 2% of the workforce list racism as a problem. According to data briefed at the recent DACODAI conference, the DOD complaints rate is 1/10th of 1% for all causes combined, racism, sexism, ageism, etc.
— With such a tiny complaint rate, how can DEI continue to be a priority considering all the other challenges the Navy faces?
• Why do some minor diversity gaps remain of black and Hispanic officers? It is not for lack of suitable candidates as DOE figures indicate that there are over 200,000 black college graduates each year, the majority with potential to become officers. Even more Hispanics graduate from colleges and universities each year.
— Could it be that blacks and Hispanics do not choose to serve in the Navy for their own reasons and it has nothing to do with racism?
— If this is true, isn’t all the emphasis on DEI a waste of resources as it does not solve the Navy’s small officer deficit?
• Considering the recent Harvard v. SFFA and UNC v. SFFA cases, isn’t the Naval Academy clearly breaking the law by continuing to use race as a factor for admission for blacks and Hispanics? The majority opinion stated it unequivocally, “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.”
— Why is the Navy and Naval Academy ignoring the Supreme Court?
Sexualization of the Navy
• The Navy has celebrated “pride” for 12 consecutive years.
— What are the benefits of this emphasis and what are the drawbacks?
— How do religious members view the celebration of “pride”?
— Do Pride celebrations lower morale and discourage some who otherwise would have considered serving? Has the Navy studied this impact?
— What resources are spent on these celebrations and what is the value received?
• This past year the Navy used a drag queen for recruiting. This was a public relations disaster. Drag queens are a tiny minority in the US which leads to the conclusion it was unwise to devote resources to this project.
— Has the Navy abandoned the use of drag queens for recruiting?
— Are Navy recruiting decision-makers oblivious to the harm Budweiser did to their market base by use of a cross dresser in its commercials?
— Have the people responsible for deciding it was a good idea to expose the Navy to national ridicule been held to account for their poor judgment in using this recruiting tactic?
• The Navy now accepts transgender people into service.
— How many are currently serving?
— What is the impact on readiness of this decision?
— How much has it cost the Navy to accommodate transgender people who want to “transition” in some way?
— What is the impact on unit readiness and morale of the loss of crew who are absent for these procedures?
— What is the advancement rate of transgender personnel?
— What is the absentee rate of transgenders?
— What is the discipline rate of transgenders?
— What is the average length of service for transgenders?
— Are transgender people finishing their enlistments at a low rate?
— What is the failure rate of transgender people at boot camp?
— Considering the resources that are being consumed by the Navy’s decision to admit transgender people, it is worth it in terms of readiness and morale impacts?
• What is the rate of obesity in the Navy and what is the trend over the past 20 years? It has been widely reported in the press that Navy personnel are getting fatter.
— What is the readiness impact of this trend? Has the Navy adopted more tolerance to overweight sailors for political reasons, i.e., to avoid fat-shaming?
• What is the pass rate trend of the PRT over the past 20 years?
— Is it true, that the Navy as whole is less fit, less healthy than in the past, that fewer personnel can pass the PRT and that the PRT has been made less challenging than before?
— If so, what is the impact on readiness from this increasing lack of fitness and health?
— What is the Navy going to do to reverse the trend?
— Why is the Navy more tolerant of unfit sailors?
— What is the impact on readiness of less fit sailors?
— American culture is tolerant of individuality and of people doing their own thing. Has this rubbed off on the Navy such that unfit sailors are the norm?
Politicization of the Navy
• The Naval Academy endorsed the book titled The 1619 Project. Midshipmen were required to read and study this book of made-up history.
— Why weren’t midshipmen provided a balanced view of the history of slavery in the United States? Noted historians completely debunked the information promoted in the 1619 Project as a categorically false picture of the origins of our country and the introduction of slavery into the North American continent. Books that tell true history include 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project by Peter Wood and Mary Grabar’s Debunking the 1619 Project.
— Why didn’t the Naval Academy provide a balanced view of the history of American slavery?
• The previous CNO actively promoted the political books such as Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to be an Anti-Racist, The New Jim Crow, and Sexual Minorities and Politics: An Introduction. The US Naval Academy is hiring a Professor for Gender and Sexuality Studies. When only one side is presented, it is indoctrination not education.
— Why have conservative public figures with experience and expertise in black history, including the history of racism and racially diversity cultures not been invited to share their research and analysis with the midshipmen at the Naval Academy?
— Why are midshipmen inundated with CRT, DEI, feminist theory, gender theory, climate change…. views from only one side of the political spectrum?
• There is a lot of evidence that both Navy veterans and Navy personnel leaving the service are advising young people to avoid service in the Navy. See this link from STARRS for hundreds of examples. What military people are saying. This is from the overt politicization of the naval service which for most of its history was entirely apolitical.
— What analysis has been done of the adverse impact of injecting politics into the Navy?
• The Navy has missed its recruiting goals for the past two years. Loses in one year not made up in the next year are cumulative and exacerbate the manning problems.
— Has the Navy examined in detail why white, Christian, southern, conservatives are staying away from military service when this demographic has for decades been the mainstay for Navy recruitment?
• What is the rate over time of those entering Navy boot camp who graduate?
— What are the same statistics for midshipmen at the US Naval Academy?
— What is the historical rate of attrition at NROTC units and at OCS? If the trends are negative, what are the causes?
• The Navy has been politicized in recent years starting with the Obama administration mandating Diversity and Inclusion and other progressive causes like climate change, the open acceptance of gays and now trans personnel (including paying for transition surgery), and the overt promotion of DOD support for abortion.
— Are the downward trends in recruiting, training attrition and retention due to political influences getting in the way of the core mission of readiness?
Reading the tea leaves
With the Harvard and UNC cases of last June, the handwriting is on the wall. Racial preferences are illegal.
DEI is proving to be a bust. Companies are pulling back from DEI as they realize that it doesn’t work without creating conflict in the workplace.
Some states have now passed legislation banning DEI and more states will follow.
Even prominent liberals are pointing out its flaws and false premises.
The House version of the NDAA contained dozens of provisions restricting the use of DEI in the military. Not all those provisions survived the conference but many of them did including this clause,
“Sec. 904 eliminates the position of Chief Diversity Officer of DOD and the positions of Senior Advisor for Diversity and Inclusion in each of the military departments. This section also (1) prohibits funding to establish a similar position; (2) prohibits any new positions within DOD related to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and (3) filling any vacancies in DOD with responsibility for such matters.”
It is time for Navy leadership to wake up to the reality that DEI is being rejected by our culture.
Americans are for equality of opportunity not race based preferences and not a divisive racialist agenda.
The Navy must follow the lawful orders of the President. However, the oath officers take is fidelity first to the Constitution.
It is now clear from the recent Harvard and UNC Supreme court cases that the law unequivocally prohibits discrimination based on race.
Our military is a meritocracy and that is an absolute. Thus, Navy leaders must hold their highest fidelity to equality and merit over any other factors.
Leaders of conscience, if necessary, must take issue with unwise or unlawful orders of those in authority over them and report on the harm that DEI is doing to the institution and its members.
If necessary, senior officers should resign rather than stand by and watch while the Navy is weakened by the corrosive effects of identity politics.
The Navy of 2023 is in dire straits and is at risk of mission failure in our next conflict. It needs to get back to traditional values of honor, courage, and commitment and laser focus on readiness.
The Navy is already extremely diverse and welcomes all who are qualified with open arms.
Navy goes to great lengths to recruit minorities and has for decades. That slightly fewer blacks and Hispanics choose to serve as officers is not due to any barriers to service.
The Navy must abandon its needless focus on DEI, climate change and other social fads, and get back to basics.
Focus externally on the threats from abroad, the People’s Republic of China, the re-emergence of Russian ambition, the international threat posed by Iran and its proxies, the DPRK, and radical Islam.
The failure of the Navy to get down to business and create a powerful and ready Navy, will spell doom to this nation and our way of life for the generations that follow us.
CAPT Brent Ramsey, (USN, ret.) is a writer on Defense matters. He has been widely featured in defense publications since 2017. He is an officer with Calvert Group, Board of Advisors member for the Center for Military Readiness and STARRS, and member of the Military Advisory Group for Congressman Chuck Edwards (NC-11).