Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Defends Army Against Matt Gaetz ‘Revivalist’ Accusations

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin skirmish with Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz on military leadership at a congressional hearing on Tuesday, when Gaetz accused the United States of falling behind on military weaponry and making other major missteps because American leaders are too preoccupied with being “woke.”

“While everyone in the world seems to be developing capabilities and being more strategic,” Gaetz said, after citing advances from China and North Korea, “we have time to embrace the critical theory of race at West Point, to embrace socialism at National Defense University, to take mandatory pronoun training.”

Austin, who was testifying at a defense budget hearing, interrupted: “It is the most capable and credible combat force in the world – it has been and it will be in the future. .”

Gaetz retorted, “Not if it goes this way, not if we embrace socialism.”

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Representative Matt Gaetz on January 6, 2022 and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on April 5, 2022.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, AP Photo/Evan Vucci


When Austin said, “The fact that you’re embarrassed by your country—” Gaetz cut him off, saying, “Oh no, no—I’m embarrassed by your leadership,” and he chided Austin, saying, “C is so shameful, that you would sit here and equate your failures with the failures of uniformed service members.”

“You said Russia would invade Ukraine in 36 days,” Gaetz continued. “You said the Taliban would be kept at bay for months. You totally screwed up those calls, and maybe we’d be better off if the National Defense University worked a little more on strategy and a little less on the alarm.”

Clearly angry, Austin said: “Didn’t you realize that Russia didn’t invade Ukraine because of what we did and what our allies did? Did you ever think to that?”

Austin and Gaetz grew more animated towards each other during the five minutes of interrogation allotted to Gaetz.

In the exchange, Gaetz also criticized the chaos of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Later in the hearing, Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado gave Austin the opportunity to speak about his pride in the U.S. military and address the “wake-up” charges.

“[U.S. service members] are smart. They are focused and spend 99% of their time defending this country and developing additional capabilities they will need to succeed on the battlefield,” Austin said. “So any idea that they’re awake or our military is awake, you know, I dispute that because it’s just not true. It’s a false narrative and they deserve better than that.”

Republican lawmakers have consistently criticized the Pentagon over the past year for initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion as well as efforts to examine extremism within the ranks.

At a press briefing last summer, Austin said, “Critical race theory is not something this department teaches, professes, embraces,” and it’s not because some academic institutions require readings and their study that the department embraces theory.

In that same briefing in July, Austin promised that the Department of Defense “will be diverse, it will be inclusive and, you know, we will be like the country we support and defend.”

At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington, referenced Gaetz’s questioning, saying “with one notable exception, it was a very, very good discussion of the problems”.

Austin is scheduled to testify again on the defense budget Thursday in front of the Senate.

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