Space Force Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier, who was sacked from his command after decrying the growing influence of Marxist-influenced critical race theory in the military, has a powerful new ally on Capitol Hill: the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma joins a growing list of GOP lawmakers who say they are concerned about an increasingly politicized environment in a Department of Defense that seems to target service members making conservative or traditionalist statements.
“I have many questions about how the Department has handled the case of Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier,” Mr. Inhofe said. “Members of our military should not only be able to speak out against Marxism, but they should be encouraged to do so — as long as they follow the rules and laws already in place.”
Mr. Inhofe said he will continue looking into ways for Congress to ensure that service members, regardless of their ideologies, will have the same free speech rights as all Americans.
Rep. Mike Rogers, the ranking GOP member on the House Armed Services Committee, echoed Mr. Inhofe’s remarks.
“My Republican colleagues and I hear regularly from active duty and retired service members that even holding conservative values is now enough to endanger a service member’s military career,” the Alabama lawmaker said.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wasted little time after assuming the position to began issuing memos and statements about the policies of the new administration.
He backed President Biden’s direction opening up the military to transgender people; called climate change an “existential threat” to the nation; and responded to the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol, over which one active duty Marine and a handful of reservists were arrested, by ordering a services-wide inquiry into reports of “extremism” in the ranks.
Maj. Andrew Calvert, who has been an Army chaplain for 16 years, received a likely career-ending General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand because he opposed changing the Defense Department rules on transgender troops and made a comment about it from his personal Facebook account.
An Army investigation concluded Maj. Calvert, currently assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, was guilty of discrimination, online misconduct and violating Defense Department rules regarding political speech.
“My concern is that people of faith who are serving or want to serve in our military are being told they are no longer welcome in” the Department of Defense, Mike Berry, an attorney with the religious freedom advocacy group First Liberty who is representing him, said in an interview with The Washington Times.
In another case, an Army public affairs officer at Fort Bragg, N.C. now faces a formal Army inquiry over a recent comment on his personal Twitter page that some people considered sexist and demeaning to women.
“We need to do everything we can to ensure our military is strong, capable and ready. Ensuring our service members have robust First Amendment protections is one of the most important things we can do to protect national security,” Mr. Berry said.
Rep. Mike Waltz, a retired Army Green Beret, said it’s not surprising to find commanders now issuing harsh actions against personnel for political speech that might have gone unnoticed a year ago.
“The memos (from Mr. Austin) really set the tone,” said Mr. Waltz, Florida Republican.
The Pentagon is pushing back against the notion that commanders are imposing harsh penalties against conservative-minded troops in order to gain favor with senior Pentagon leadership.
“There are no ‘tea leaves to read’ and there’s no effort by senior Defense Department leadership to purge people from the service based on their political or religious beliefs,” said chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
Mr. Austin “is making decisions based on his sound judgment and years of experience in the military and not through any kind of partisan or political lens.”
Some members of Congress are saying cadets at West Point are being indoctrinated with critical race theory lectures and seminars.
Mr. Waltz said the teachings “pit cadets against one another through devise indoctrination under the pressure of “wokeism.”
The seminars seem to warn the future Army leaders that they should treat their fellow officers and soldiers differently based on race and on socio-economic background, he said.
“In a combat environment, where every soldier must equally share the burden of danger, I cannot think of a notion more destructive to unit cohesion and morale,” he said.
In a letter to senior officials at the Department of the Air Force and Space Force, Mr. Waltz joined more than 20 other GOP lawmakers in calling for the reinstatement of Lt. Col. Lohmeier.
They point to the number of serving U.S. military officials who denounced Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson for comments he made on his political opinion show.
“There were no actions taken against any of these senior leaders who publicly, in uniform and from official Department of Defense accounts, lambasted a private U.S. citizen for having an opinion regarding defense policy which differed from the official (Department of Defense) policy,” they wrote.
There seems to be no material difference between public statements made by many senior serving Pentagon military leaders while on duty and those made by Lt. Col. Lohmeier in a completely unofficial capacity, the lawmakers said.
“The sole difference seems to be the ideological content of his remarks,” they wrote.