Troops with LGBTQ+ family members have been forced to move to new bases because of harassment at school, a Department of the Air Force official said.
“When I’m forced to move families from installations, because their school will do nothing when their LGBT kid is being bullied—that worries me, because that’s distracting from the mission, that’s detracting from our readiness,” said Alex Wagner, assistant Air Force secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.
Wagner’s comments come amid escalating attacks by right-wing politicians on the LGBTQ+ community. For instance, in Florida, home to several Air Force and Space Force bases, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill bans public school teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. Hundreds of other anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been introduced or passed elsewhere in the country.
The Air Force could not immediately say which military bases Wagner was referring to.
“If servicemembers are thinking and concerned about the experience their kids are having, they’re not going to be focused on their jobs. They’re not gonna be focused on their mission,” Wagner said Tuesday at the Center for a New American Security’s annual National Security Conference.
Conservative lawmakers have also argued that “woke-ism” is causing the military’s recruiting woes—despite top military leaders saying there is no evidence that diversity policies have harmed recruiting or readiness.
Diversity and inclusion, Wagner said, is “core” to U.S. national security, because diverse groups always outperform “carefully selected teams of homogenous individuals.”
The United States should use its diversity “as a weapon system” and distinguish itself from its competitors, he said.
“What I need, managing the Department of the Air Force’s personnel enterprise, is a diverse force that thinks about how to approach the hardest, toughest, most challenging national security issues, challenging issues period that this country faces, bringing them together with a single focus with a single mission,” Wagner said.
The Pentagon recently said it will no longer allow drag shows at military bases—enforcing a longstanding policy that hosting such events is not a suitable use of DOD dollars.
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