Representative Matt Gaetz and Lloyd Austin engaged in a fiery and very heated back-and-forth, with the congressman accusing the Defense Secretary of pushing a ‘woke’ agenda in the military and saying he’s “embarrassed” by his leadership.
The exchange came during testimony by Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley before the House Armed Services Committee regarding the Pentagon’s proposed $773 billion budget for 2023.
Gaetz noted that under Austin’s leadership, the United States has been involved in several “blown calls” including the Afghanistan debacle and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
“You guys have been blowing a lot of calls lately on matters of strategy, Mr. Secretary,” Gaetz said.
“You guys told us that Russia couldn’t lose, you told us the Taliban couldn’t immediately win. And so I guess I’m wondering, what in the $773 billion that you’re requesting today is going to help you make assessments that are accurate in the face of so many blown calls?”
Congressman Gaetz also openly wondered what would justify the budget request under military leadership that, in his eyes, is pushing a woke and ‘socialist’ agenda rather than concentrating on winning wars.
The Florida Republican claimed America is “behind” in hypersonic weapons and had “failed to deter Russia” from invading Ukraine.
“What do you mean, we’re behind in hypersonics?” Austin shouted. “How do you make that assessment?”
Gaetz replied that the Defense Department’s briefings had made such an assessment. In February, Austin encouraged American defense companies to hustle up in developing hypersonic missiles.
“And so while everyone else in the world seems to be developing capabilities and being more strategic, we got time to embrace critical race theory at West Point, to embrace socialism at the National Defense University, to do mandatory pronoun training,” he asserted.
Last year, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley defended West Point students studying critical race theory – now famously saying, “I want to understand white rage, and I’m white, and I want to understand it.”
The ‘socialism’ charge made by Gaetz referred to the National Defense University holding a speaker session with far-left economist Thomas Piketty entitled, “Responding to China: The Case For Global Justice and Democratic Socialism”.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wasn’t about to back down, accusing Gaetz of being embarrassed by his country, an assessment the lawmaker vehemently denied.
“This is the most capable, the most combat critical force in the world,” the secretary shot back. “It has been, and it will be so going forward. And this budget helps us to do that. The fact that you’re embarrassed by your country, by your military, I’m sorry for that.”
Gaetz quickly interjected.
“No, no, no. I’m embarrassed by your leadership,” Gaetz replied. “I am not embarrassed for my country.”
Gaetz proceeded to rip Austin for what he alleged was a conflation of his own failures as Defense Secretary to the actions of service members.
“You guys said that Russia would overrun Ukraine in 36 days, you said that the Taliban would be kept at bay for months,” Gaetz fired back.
“You totally blew those calls, and maybe we would be better at them if the National Defense University actually worked a little more on strategy and a little less on wokeism.”
Representative Gaetz and Lloyd Austin have engaged in testy exchanges prior to this one.
In a previous hearing, the lawmaker noted that Milley and Austin, who helped facilitate a withdrawal that led to dead service members, dead children, and Americans left behind enemy lines, have not been held accountable for their actions.
“I believe that you guys probably won’t resign. You seem to be very happy failing up over there,” Gaetz told Austin, Milley, and U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie at a hearing in September
“But if we didn’t have a president that was so addled, you all would be fired, because that is what you deserve.”
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