Cotton presses defense secretary on 'anti-American indoctrination' as Austin defends diversity push

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Sen. Tom Cotton told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin his office has received "hundreds" of whistleblower complaints about the military’s new diversity and inclusion training, which he says amounts to "anti-American indoctrination."

Cotton, R-Ark., has aggressively fought back against such training. In March, he introduced legislation to ban critical race theory training from the military. He and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, set up a website for whistleblower complaints to be directed to them earlier this month.

Cotton said he’d seen reports of "plummeting morale, growing mistrust between races and sexes where none existed just six months ago and unexpected retirements and separations based on these trainings alone."

He said one Marine officer had said that military history training was replaced with training on police brutality, White privilege and systemic racism. Another claimed his unit was required to read "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo, which claims White people in the West have internalized White supremacy.

Austin said the military was seeking to be "welcoming to everyone who can qualify and who is fit to serve."

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"We ought to look like the America we support and defend, and senior leadership should look like what’s in the ranks," he said.

When asked by the senator, Austin agreed that the military was not a fundamentally racist organization, that members should not be treated differently based on the color of their skin and that race or gender should not be a "key component" in choosing leadership.

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"The military for decades has been one of the institutions in society where you are most likely to get ahead based on your own performance, your own merit, irrespective of the color of your skin, where you came from, who your parents were," Cotton said.

"I absolutely agree with that, I am an example of that," Austin said.

Austin said the military has done a "great job" at diversity within its ranks but needs to be "a bit better" to be "absolutely inclusive" so that it could be "the most effective and lethal fighting force in the world."

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"Diversity, equity and inclusion is important to this military and it will be important in the future," Austin said.

"This is not about diversity, this is about a very specific kind of anti-American indoctrination that is seeping into some parts of our military based on the whistleblower complaints we have received," Cotton replied.

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