But here’s the problem: The clarification only confirms our worst fears and raises other related questions.
This issue isn’t going away anytime soon.
On Sept. 1, we exposed the little-noticed update to the Defense Department’s “Manual of Military Decorations and Awards: DOD Joint Decorations and Awards.” The change, effective Aug. 7, required the six top joint awards to use the nonsensical and grammatically incorrect word “themself” instead of the pronouns “himself” or “herself” for each award.
Our post went viral, for obvious reasons, and members of Congress took note.
On the day of our post, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., posted a scathing response on X, formerly known as Twitter, stating that “the Pentagon has once again chosen to waste time and resources on wokeness instead of warfighting.” He accurately called the new policy “insane” and called on Congress to ensure that the Pentagon is focused on “lethality, not pronouns.”
On Sept. 8, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., wrote a public letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, which both poked fun at the Pentagon’s misguided priorities and demanded answers to some very legitimate questions.
Cotton addressed the letter “Dear Mr. Secretary,” with the footnote reading, “If I may be so bold as to assume your ‘preferred gender.’” The senator’s use of humor is appropriate, as the new policy would be laughable if it weren’t such a damning indictment of the state of the Pentagon’s leadership.
He went on to inquire about the origins of the policy, asking:
- Did you personally approve the change? If not, when did you learn of it?
- Under the new change, can service members request the use of the male or female pronoun on their award citations and at promotion and retirement ceremonies? How will those requests be treated?
- What other official documentation with DOD requires gender-neutral language?
Cotton closed his letter writing: “I also would welcome a reply that this whole episode was just a practical joke, or a decision you immediately reversed when it came to your attention.”
He demanded an answer by Sept. 15.
On Tuesday, instead of doing the right thing and simply repealing Change 5, the Pentagon said that Change 5 will stand as is, but with language that “clarifies” that the change does not ban the use of the pronouns “himself” or “herself.”
So, the default pronoun is “themself,” and proper pronouns aren’t banned.
To make matters worse, a Pentagon official said the following to a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation: “The change in the DoD Manual was not intended to restrict the use of the citation pronouns. However, in order to avoid confusion in the future, we are adding a clarifying comment that “themselves” can be replaced with ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ as appropriate.”
But Change 5 was specifically designed to restrict the use of citation pronouns based on sex and required the use of the androgynous, asexual pronoun “themself.” It wasn’t until we called them out on it and exposed this stupidity that they backtracked.
Notice also that the Pentagon did not answer Cotton’s other questions.
Austin owes Cotton answers to his questions, and, given the “clarification,” we have some additional questions.
- To whom would service members need to submit a request for gendered pronouns in their award ceremony? Can those requests be denied?
- Who decided to keep Change 5 and issue a clarification? Did the secretary of defense approve of keeping Change 5?
- Were there any communications between the White House, or those acting on behalf of the White House, in advance of this change being implemented in the first place? If so, what were those communications, with whom, and when?
- Did the chairman or vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff approve of Change 5? If so, when? If not, why was the change made nonetheless?
Change 5 is an abomination. It should be rescinded immediately. The clarification is unacceptable, and only reinforces the fact that this administration and this Pentagon are focused on silly and dangerous social policies at a time when China and others are sharpening their swords.
No doubt, they’re laughing at Austin for allowing this silliness to happen on his watch.
Dakota Wood is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense and editor of Heritage’s Index of U.S. Military Strength. Previously, he served for two decades in the U.S. Marine Corps. Original here. Reproduced with permission.