Debate Over Meritocracy and Diversity in Military Policy Heats Up Amid NDAA Amendments

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The American public is demanding action to restore meritocracy in the military and stop toxic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mandates that discriminate based on race. The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2025 includes some measures to accomplish these goals, but one provision, Sec. 523 of HR 8070, would advance the woke agenda instead of mitigating it.

The provision, billed as a “meritocracy” provision, lacks precision and will allow Department of Defense (DOD) bureaucrats to continue discriminating based on race in military personnel actions. The undefined word “sex” will also be interpreted in ways that harm women and promote radical gender ideology.

The Biden administration has argued before the Supreme Court in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and UNC, that granting racial and “gender preferences” in admissions to the Military Service Academies and to civilian colleges hosting ROTC programs is necessary to achieve a balance between the racial and sexual makeup of the enlisted force and the officer corps. Despite new litigation challenging racial discrimination at the service academies, the DOD is still claiming that “diversity is a strategic imperative.”

The NDAA “merit provision” directs DOD to base personnel actions on “individual merit and demonstrated performance… without regard to the political affiliation, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or marital status…” of the service member. However, this language is similar to the DOD’s current Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) program, which allows for racial and sexual preferences in personnel decisions.

To establish a true meritocracy, the NDAA needs to be amended in three ways: first, personnel actions need to be based exclusively on merit; second, merit needs to be defined by specific objective and measurable criteria, such as training, experience, and special skill qualifications; and third, Congress must preclude DOD from interpreting “sex” to encompass “gender identity” or “gender expression.”

Without these changes, the DOD will seek to circumvent Congress’s directives and continue to promote its DEI agenda. The federal courts will not solve the problem, and DOD’s interpretation will prevail unless and until Congress changes it.

William A. Woodruff
William A. Woodruff
William Woodruff is a professor of law emeritus and a retired Army lawyer. As an Army lawyer, he served as chief of the litigation division and was responsible for defending the Army’s interests in civil litigation involving Army policies, programs, and operations.

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