Ron DeSantis rolled out his plan to “rip the woke out of the military and return it to its core mission” at a campaign stop in Columbia, South Carolina, on July 18.
DeSantis’s plan doesn’t address military weaponry or theaters of engagement, subjects he often touches on in his speeches.
The program instead focuses on another side of revamping the military: undoing what he says is the Biden administration’s military preoccupation with diversity and inclusion, critical race theory, and climate change—so the armed forces might focus once more on how to fight wars.
In his speech, Mr. DeSantis assailed the American military’s current path.
“It’s a military that has been ordered by civilian officials to pursue political ideology, to pursue social experimentation, to be yet another institution in American life that gets infected with the woke mind virus,” Mr. DeSantis said.
In a platform released by his campaign and aimed squarely at the Biden administration’s actual or perceived policies, Mr. DeSantis also called for the disciplining of retired generals and admirals who speak out against public officials, the yanking of security clearances for those seeking to cash in as paid news analysts, and the disciplining of troops who show contempt for elected officials.
He said he’d throw a monkey wrench into the merry-go-round between defense jobs, lobbying firms, and military contractors.
Mr. DeSantis called for military promotions based solely on merit, rather than trying to check race or gender boxes with them. He said transgender service members would no longer be dealt with in the gender of their preference, and the taxpayers would not pay for their sex-change operations.
“If you look at the threats that this country has from China, when China sees the Navy, for example, using drag queens to recruit people, they are laughing in our face,” said Mr. DeSantis, who plans to ban drag shows on military bases.
“When you see some of the nonsense that’s gone on in the services, these are things that would have been unthinkable even 10 years ago, much less in prior generations. Our enemies are whetting their appetite. You know why? Because they’re seeing America take its eye off the ball.”
“We need a military that is focused on being lethal, being ready, and being capable. And if there’s anybody’s agenda that gets in the way of that, that agenda needs to take a hike.”
His military platform contains four key “pillars.” Those include “ripping political agenda out of our military,” restoring military standards, “breaking the swamp and promoting accountability,” and reversing the Biden administration’s recruiting crisis.
He would focus the academies on core military needs and would require the defense secretary to promote top officers focused on “lethality, readiness, and capabilities.”
To restore military standards, he said in his plan, the military must recognize differences between men and women, eliminate racial preferences, and adhere to one standard of readiness.
The services would be required to have physical qualifications according to gender-neutral standards. He would require statistical data transparency for performance and end equity initiatives related to standards and readiness.
Race and gender quotas in military recruiting and promotions would be banned and would focus on merit.
Mr. DeSantis would reinstate their previous rank service members kicked out because of their COVID-19 vaccination status. He would restore pay to those disciplined for that.
Climate change would cease being a military priority. Mr. DeSantis would end climate activist policies and stop requiring military contractors to track and slow their greenhouse gas emissions. He would stop the military funding of projects for environmental justice.
And called for prosecuting service members who speak “contemptuous words” against the president, vice-president, Congress, certain Cabinet members, governors, or state legislatures.
He would cease issuing security clearances to retired defense leadership who speak as paid analysts on cable news or otherwise seek to monetize their “access to so-called inside information.”
Before and after their tenure, he would institute a cooling-off period for Pentagon officials serving as military contractor board members and lobbyists.
“These officials are leveraging their Pentagon and security positions before and after they serve as civilians,” Mr. DeSantis says in his plan.
Any high-ranking military or intelligence official who knowingly lies under oath to a federal official or Congress would be fired immediately, he said, and he would sack any Joint Chiefs officer who contacts an enemy counterpart without the president’s knowledge.
He would review within six months the performance of all personnel in four-star command and staff positions. “Anyone determined to have promoted policies to the detriment of readiness and warfighting will be asked to resign or otherwise removed from those positions. Similar reviews will be conducted over a longer time horizon for three-star command and equivalent civilian (positions).”
To restore military recruiting, DeSantis would begin at the top. He promises to use “the bully pulpit to engage all Americans on the power and meaning of its all-volunteer fighting force, and a meaningful purpose-driven military force that will have the resources, backing of their Commander-in-Chief and the American people to defend the Constitution and the United States.”
Mr. DeSantis, a veteran himself, paid tribute to veterans in the audience in a traditionally military-friendly state.
“It’s been said that a veteran is somebody who at one time in their life has written a check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including that individual’s life,” he said.
“When you sign up and you raise your hand, you don’t necessarily know where you’re going to be sent. You don’t necessarily know where duty is going to take you. But you stand ready to serve and you are required to sacrifice.”
“It’s not just something that we say on Veterans Day. It’s not just Memorial Day where we recognize the fallen. We would not have a free society unless we had people that were willing to put on that uniform and take a stand.”
He recounted his upbringing, his grandfather’s service in World War II, and his blue-collar childhood in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War.
“We didn’t really have much of a care in the world at that time as a country. We were doing well economically,” Mr. DeSantis said. “The Cold War had ended thanks to people like President [Ronald] Reagan, and we were kind of on a holiday from history.”
Sept. 11 “changed my trajectory,” causing him in 2004 to “raise my hand to do my part” for the all-volunteer military.
DeSantis served at Guantanamo Bay and then in Iraq as the legal adviser to the SEAL Team One commander—and noted he was the first presidential candidate since 1988 to have served in a war and the only veteran in the current presidential race.
He celebrated the military’s function as a melting pot, bringing together people from different regions and backgrounds.
“You go through the same cauldron and you come out Americans.”