Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall appeared to contradict on Thursday a general’s suggestion made months ago that she might assign military officers based on state LGBT laws instead of qualifications.
Space Force Chief Operations Officer Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt condemned state laws banning sex changes and gender education and claimed that they are a threat to military readiness at an official Department of Defense Pride Month commemoration in June. Kendall, who is the civilian chief of both the Air Force and Space Force, conceded at a hearing on Thursday that the Space Force general had stepped out of bounds.
“She realizes that she said some things she should not have said,” Kendall said at the hearing. “I agree that she did say some things about state laws that were misleading. We do not keep track of state laws, we do not assign people based on that.”
“Services in the pentagon are now making personnel decisions based on state law put forward by elected officials,” Republican Rep. Mike Waltz of Florida said. “In the wake of the state of Florida saying we shouldn’t have sexualized material for 5 to 8-year-olds… [Burt] said that she would put less qualified people if they had concerns about this state law.”
“I’ve read the transcript of what she said and it’s as you say,” Kendall responded. “But I still think she was addressing a hypothetical, a potential case.”
Burt said at the June event that she does not want to assign officers where they do “not feel safe being themselves or if their family could be denied critical healthcare… those barriers are a threat to our readiness,” according to a recording of her speech.
More than 400 laws introduced at the state level in 2023, including bans on gender transition treatments, pose a “danger” to LGBTQ+ service members, Burt told the audience at the June event. She said those laws compelled her to stationSpace Force leaders where state policies accommodate their sexual and gender identities.
Kendall said he was not aware if Burt had said or done anything to correct her statement.
— Congressman Waltz Press (@RepWaltzPress) September 28, 2023
Kendall was appearing before Congress to explain the Air Force’s role in the basing process for U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM). The decision was delayed for years, only for President Joe Biden to intervene at the last minute in a decision both Republicans and Democrats have accused of being “politicized.”
Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said he believed Biden chose Colorado as SPACECOM’s permanent headquarters to punish Alabama for its abortion laws and Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s holds on officer promotions.
The administration has “opened a Pandora’s box of political issues,” Waltz said.
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