By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

House Democrats called out Republican members who recently shot down their efforts to amend the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) programming currently operating in the Department of Defense (DOD) through Fiscal Year 2024 Defense Appropriations bill, H.R. 4365.

Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD-07), Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-TX-30) and Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA-37) provided a statement on Sept. 13, bringing attention to the matter.

“There is strength in diversity, and the House Republicans’ refusal to consider our amendment to preserve DEIA programming within the military jeopardizes our national security. The armed forces are facing historic personnel shortages and urgently need to recruit competent and dedicated service members. Becoming more inclusive, tolerant, and accessible to service members from different backgrounds is absolutely imperative in strengthening our national security apparatus,” said the representatives. “We will continue our work to safeguard our service members from discrimination and ensure the DOD has adequate funding to attract, retain, and advance the best talent our nation has to offer.”

A portion of the bill restricts funds from being used to further the Department of Defense DEIA Strategic Plan or executive orders aimed at advancing racial equity and supporting neglected communities. The bill provides appropriations for military personnel, operation and maintenance, procurement and research and development. The Senate’s version of the bill, S.2587, does not include the DEIA restriction or mention the program.

An original house report from June 27, the day it was introduced in the House, states that the committee is concerned that DOD’s DEIA programs aim to divide the military along racial, ethnic and gender lines, not provide common defense, as stated in the U.S. Constitution.

“To get the department focused on its warfighting mission and away from culture wars. This bill includes a number of new general provisions that send a clear message to the department,” said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA-41), the chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, in a Sept. 12 hearing in the House Rules Committee. “These new general provisions are necessary to ensure that the DOD is focused on its mission and is able to tell potential recruits they won’t be forced into being a part of a social agenda, to which they may not agree. The fact that the committee has to address such issues reflects the failure of the department’s leadership.”

The bill also explicitly limits funding toward the advancement of any form of “critical race theory.”

DOD refused to comment on the pending legislation.

Regardless of the difference in opinions, Congress has to work diligently to settle on and pass the bill by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, according to the Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget. All 12 appropriations bills must be passed by Congress and signed by President Biden by midnight on Sept. 30 to prevent a full government shutdown. Each federal agency creates its shutdown plan overseen by The Office of Management and Budget sets the guidelines for what a shutdown could look like.

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