The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee will push the Defense Department next year to produce all records that include terms related to gender identity.

The committee, led by Democrats until Republicans take control of the House next month, voted along party lines and agreed Tuesday to recommend against the passage of a resolution requiring the records. But Republicans said they will pursue the records in the next Congress as they focus on examining Pentagon policies that they contend advance “woke” ideology at the expense of top national security concerns.

“Our troops should not be the vanguard for the left’s social agenda,” said Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, the committee’s top Republican and incoming chairman. “Next year, the new majority will be conducting robust oversight of these issues and we will demand accountability from this administration.”

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the committee’s chairman now, called the records request “the mother of all fishing expeditions.”

The resolution seeks copies of all Pentagon material that mentions words such as “transgender,” “gender transition,” “gender reassignment,” “gender affirming,” “gender neutral,” “gender dysphoria,” “nonbinary” or “non-binary,” “safe space” and “inclusive language.”

“This is not a simple request for one thing,” Smith said. “This will take an enormous amount of time towards no particular purpose.”

Republicans said Tuesday that new policies on gender, including a decision last year by the military’s insurance provider Tricare to cover hormone replacement therapy, undermined readiness and hurt recruiting and retention.

“I have family members that have gotten out of the military because of the wokeness, you cannot disagree with that,” said Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Ala.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said a “culture war with radical race ideology and radical gender ideology” has permeated the Defense Department and “even bled” into the Department of Veterans Affairs when the agency announced it would offer gender confirmation surgery to transgender veterans.

Gaetz defended the resolution as a necessity to get “straight answers” out of military leaders. He frequently sparred with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during hearings on the defense budget this year that veered into debates on diversity and other social issues.

“I think to when the secretary said directly ‘there is no wokeness, there is no woke generals, there is no woke military’ and he took all offense and got blustered,” Gaetz said. “When you get blatant evidence that contradicts the statements these people make, it necessitates this type of inquiry.”

Smith countered that such inquiries denigrated the military and damaged recruitment efforts. He criticized Republicans on the far right for demonizing diversity initiatives to score political points and raise money.

“If you have a group of people dedicating their time to going out there and trashing the military for not doing their job and not being capable, it does make it more likely that people won't want to join,” Smith said. “I hope that as we go forward into the next year and deal with this oversight that we do it in an intelligent and thoughtful way that advances the cause of the military and doesn't simply play into a political agenda.”

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Svetlana Shkolnikova covers Congress for Stars and Stripes. She previously worked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and spent four years as a general assignment reporter for The Record newspaper in New Jersey and the USA Today Network. A native of Belarus, she has also reported from Moscow, Russia.

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