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A military leader goes political

Space Force general’s opposition to pro-family laws undermines military impartiality

U.S. Space Force Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt U.S. Space Force photo by 2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo

A military leader goes political
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One of the highest-ranking officers in the U.S. Space Force explicitly sides with transgender ideology and called for the newest branch of the United States military to commit to “transformational change.”

Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, the Space Force’s deputy chief of space operations for operations, cyber, and nuclear, addressing a Pentagon event scheduled during “Pride Month,” said: “Transformational cultural change requires leadership from the top, and we do not have time to wait. Since January of this year, more than 400 anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been introduced at the state level. That number is rising and demonstrates a trend that could be dangerous for service members, their families, and the readiness of the force as a whole.” 

Burt warned about several hundred bills that vary wildly, from protecting girls’ sports and the participation of male competitors, to keeping pornography out of public schools, to prohibiting puberty blockers, which makes her blanket criticism appear especially ideological and partisan. The American Civil Liberties Union, a predictably liberal activist organization, has lumped all the bills meant to protect children and families together and is commonly the source for the 400 number.

The officer then went on to say that these laws affect her support for promotions in the command. “When I look at potential candidates, say, for squadron command, I strive to match the right person to the right job. I consider their job performance and relevant experience first. However, I also look at their personal circumstances, and their family is also an important factor.” She doesn’t promote the most qualified people due to legislative proposals or laws that don’t align with her politics? If true, doesn’t that jeopardize our national security?

Burt’s comments are both disturbing and inappropriate, and they serve to clarify what public leaders have been warning about when they talk about the rise of some “woke” military leaders pushing identity politics and ideology on military members. To be sure, accusations of a “woke” military can be wildly overblown and thus inaccurately disparage the U.S. military, which remains the most highly trained, sophisticated, and disciplined military in the world. As I remarked on a Heritage Foundation panel on the subject, I meet with uniformed military regularly, and I’d take any of the American junior officers I’ve met over any senior military officer in the very unwoke Russian or Chinese army, no question.

But it defies reason to insist that the leftist identity politics, including trans ideology that has now seeped into every major American institution, simply skipped over the military. Of course, it didn’t, and that ideology must be identified and corrected.

The partisan impartiality of the U.S. military and the appearance of partisan impartiality is vital to the health of our republic.

The U.S. military is separate and apart from either American political party, and it is Pentagon policy that officers are to refrain from inserting themselves in civilian domestic debates. Furthermore, the Hatch Act explicitly prohibits uniformed military from engaging in overt political activity. The partisan impartiality of the U.S. military and the appearance of partisan impartiality is vital to the health of our republic. And its reputation as an impartial guardian of the nation has paid off. It has enjoyed relatively high support across the nation when confidence and support in other institutions are cratering.

Americans are far more willing to support U.S. national defense policies across administrations when they trust that their military represents the interests of the American people in the broadest of terms and defends the U.S. Constitution and our means of dynamic democratic life and self-governance.

Nobody should be surprised if confidence in the judgment of our uniformed officers is low if half—and perhaps even more than half—of the citizens of our republic believe those officers are directly involved in partisan politics.

Burt’s comments are also controversial on moral grounds. One of the reasons there is a spate of legislation protecting children and parents is that more families becoming aware of how harmful and pervasive leftwing ideology is. A recent Washington Post-KFF poll shows American support for hormone doses and puberty blockers in the name of “care” is low and dropping—and that’s across the entire nation.

And compared to other nations, the United States is an outlier, as medical experts in many European nations express skepticism over using such practices as puberty blockers. Britain’s National Health Service, warned about granting puberty-blocking drugs to children at so-called “gender identity clinics,” citing the need for more evidence about the harms.

Aside from the legal, moral, and institutional concerns about the general’s remarks, there is also a serious concern that this focus on divisive domestic politics is diverting her focus from her actual mission. The challenges facing the United States homeland and our interests abroad are serious and mounting. Defending U.S. satellites in space, and defending the American people from weapons that traverse space, is imperative.

China and Russia are both advanced space powers. In 2021, For example, China tested a highly dangerous Fractional-Orbiting Bombardment System (FOBS) that flew on a path meant to avoid being seen by U.S. sensors, passing through low-orbit space before cruising towards its target.

The threats facing Americans in all military domains, including those in space, necessitate mission-focused leadership. And at a time of immense and deep political division, the U.S. military must hold fast to its non-partisan, highly disciplined disposition. This officer’s speech was out of line.

Rebeccah L. Heinrichs

Rebeccah L. Heinrichs is a national security analyst specializing in strategic deterrence. She is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, an adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, and serves on a Department of Defense advisory group.

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