How DEI Ideology Undermines National Security | Opinion

In response to President Joe Biden's June 2021 executive order, many federal agencies—from NASA to the Department of Defense—released plans to pursue diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in their day-to-day operations. In a recent comment on these efforts, one senior Defense Department official said he hopes "as many leaders and members of the total force as possible see [these] efforts as a force multiplier."

In fact, DEI is a dangerous ideology—so dangerous that our leaders should regard it as a threat to national security, not an imperative of it. Many have already critiqued DEI as it appears in our nation's universities. As Dorian Abbot and Ivan Marinovic recently explained, DEI violates ethical and legal principles of equality, compromises universities' mission and undermines the public's trust. When DEI is applied outside of higher education, such as within the federal government, these problems are exponentially worse, and for many reasons.

First, DEI will foster tribalism in the federal workforce. To be sure, human beings are hardwired for tribalism. There need not be an ideological difference for group biases and favoritism to form. Merely separating people into groups, even on the basis of arbitrary criteria, is enough to trigger our innate tribalism.

We already see this phenomenon play out in rivalries between branches of the military and various agencies, be it for fun or for funding. The federal government often makes efforts, such as joint-duty assignments, to temper this tendency. But what happens when the government implements DEI, and federal employees are forced to see themselves not as members of bureaucratic factions, but as members of racial, sexual and other identity groups? What happens when educational and career opportunities are awarded or denied on the basis of group membership? Tribalism will build, and resentment will too.

DEI also undermines our shared American identity and distracts from the missions of our federal agencies. Consider the now-infamous "woke" recruitment video produced by the Central Intelligence Agency, in which an officer unironically states: "I am a woman of color.... I am a cisgender millennial who's been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I am intersectional, but my existence is not a box-checking exercise."

Upon viewing the video, Elissa Slotkin—a former CIA officer who now serves as a Democratic representative for Michigan—remarked, "I don't know who they are trying to appeal to, because the people that I know who are interested in working to serve their country, are interested in the mission that is bigger than themself." Slotkin's observation was most astute. Those who serve our country should be expected to identify as Americans, first and foremost, and with the mission of their employer secondarily. They should not be expected or incentivized to identify as "intersectional," nor by their skin color nor their gender identity, but DEI forces them to regard themselves as such.

Joe Biden executive order
US President Joe Biden signs an executive order on securing critical supply chains, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 24, 2021. SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images

The result can be not only distracting but damaging. Practicing DEI in the federal government helps legitimize the anti-Americanism currently running rampant in our universities. For example, George Mason University—only miles from the Pentagon—is currently promoting books claiming that America is systemically and irredeemably racist, with the university's provost declaring that "DEI is actually the core of what our university is about." Last year, Georgia Tech, the 2021-22 NSA Codebreaker champion, hosted former Communist Party leader Angela Davis under the guise of DEI. The list goes on and on.

University administrators are doing everything in their power to produce graduates who bear no allegiance to the United States—the first guideline for security clearance adjudications—and they are succeeding. One University of Pennsylvania doctoral candidate recently argued that "the notion of 'freedom'...remains intertwined with Whiteness.... The belief that one is entitled to freedom is a key component of white supremacy." If we lived in a sane society, the national security community would have already ceased recruiting from these institutions.

Finally, DEI hurts recruiting efforts. While this problem may be intuited from those mentioned above, it is more widespread than many of the counterintelligence threats we currently face. As DEI legitimizes pernicious anti-Americanism, it will only erode trust between all federal employees and the government they serve. This is especially true for federal law enforcement and military personnel who risk their lives in their roles. It is simply asinine to expect loyalty from our nation's guardians when DEI ensures they will face discrimination and defamation.

As Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) wrote to the Senate Armed Services Committee last year, multiple servicemen in the armed forces have complained about DEI trainings. "Diversity is a great goal," explained one soldier, "but it's clear here they don't mean diversity of thought; and I'm also strongly concerned about applying 'equity' practices, as this goes directly against merit-based principles." Others complained about privilege walks, hirings based on race, segregation and punishment of dissenting views.

It should be noted that this is not a party-specific issue. There are plenty of liberals who have stood with conservatives to speak out against DEI. This issue is purely one of policy, not of partisanship. Implementing DEI at the university level is bad enough, but within the federal government it is disastrous. It will foster tribalism in the federal workforce, undermine our shared American identity, distract from the missions of our federal agencies, legitimize anti-Americanism in our leading institutions and hurt recruitment efforts. In short, DEI is a national security threat.

Mason Goad is a junior researcher with the National Association of Scholars, and can be contacted via Twitter (@GoadMason) or via email at goad@nas.org.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.