LTG Steven Gilland, Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, hosted the 20th Annual DEI Conference at West Point, NY, 30-31 August 2023. The conference was attended by service academy cadets and officers from several military branches as well as other government and civilian attendees. The comments by a USAFA cadet, deemed inappropriate and possibly even to be in violation of UCMJ, prompted an article that Armed Forces Press published on its website on 13 September 2023:
“Uniformed USAFA Cadet Publicly Disrespects Congress at 2023 West Point DEI Conference”[i]
After the article, written by a member of the MacArthur Society of West Point Graduates, went viral on the AFP website, STARRS members alerted Congressional staffers who examined the article and the audio tape from the conference of the cadet’s controversial and derogatory mention of Congress. STARRS (Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services)[ii] is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization founded to emphasize the principles of meritocracy, readiness, and the US Constitution in our military. The MacArthur Society was founded in mid-2023 to “To preserve, defend, and advocate for West Point’s history, purpose, and principles of Duty, Honor, Country.”[iii] Both organizations were shocked at the cadet’s brazen remarks but also at the lack of supervision from officers of both academies.
On 21 September 2023, Congressmen Mike Waltz (FL-6) and Jim Banks (IN-3) sent a letter to the Superintendents of the Unites States Military Academy and the United States Air Force Academy demanding answers to concerns about the USAFA cadet’s public statement during the DEI Conference and what actions the academies’ chains of command took, if any. Waltz and Banks stated in the letter concerns over service academy discipline and disrespect for elected officials:
“An audio recording of the incident shows that the cadet addressed guest speakers stating: “So, the United States Air Force Academy has a Diversity and Inclusion Minor that teaches classes on gender, race, and nationalism in the class, and these teachings have been incredibly controversial across the U.S. with an outright ban in Florida and the Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy being questioned for it in Congress and the video going viral. Can cadets and service academies safeguard the teachings of these topics, or, if we get a particularly bad batch of Congressman, are these teachings like (sic) screwed?” Per the recording, the crowd in attendance erupted in laughter at the cadet’s comments, and it is not apparent that any senior officer attempted to correct or counsel the cadet, nor did anyone take the opportunity to educate the group of cadets regarding civilian oversight of the military or the constitutional duty of elected officials to conduct legislative oversight. As veterans, we find USMA and the U.S. Air Force Academy’s apparent acquiescence of demeaning statements aimed at Congress troubling and emblematic of the increasing politicization of our academies. The apparent failure of any senior officer to correct the highly inappropriate behavior of scorning lawful, civilian authorities amounts to turning a blind eye to conduct that could be a violation of Article 88 of the UCMJ.”
Specifically, the letter asks the USMA and USAFA Superintendents:
“Given the example that has been set at an official USMA event, it’s not surprising that a cadet felt it acceptable to attack elected officials while in uniform. In that regard, we request timely answers to the following questions:
1. Did you or any senior officer counsel the cadet on appropriate references to elected officials while in uniform?
2. Should this have been an opportunity to present alternative viewpoints to the group of cadets?
3. After the cadet’s comments about “bad congressman,” did you take the opportunity to educate cadets on the U.S.’s long history of civilian oversight of the military and Congress’s constitutional role of legislative oversight?
4. Do the USMA and USAFA condone the highly partisan statements of the conference’s guest speakers?”
The entire Congressional letter of inquiry can be found on Congressman Waltz’s website:
After Waltz and Banks’ letter was posted, Fox News reached out to officials at USMA and USAFA as well as several of the controversial speakers at the DEI Conference and none offered comments on the matter.
Fox News interviewed Congressman Banks who stated that he disagrees “"with the cadet’s remarks," but sees "why he thought they were appropriate, given he made them at a left-wing political conference. The issue is that the U.S. Military Academy is hosting partisan, DEI events in the first place.”[iv]
John Hughes, MD, is a writer on medical and military matters. He is a 1996 West Point graduate, veteran of Haiti/Iraq/Afghanistan, and is a practicing Emergency Physician. He is a contributor to CDMedia and Armed Forces Press, has been featured in Real Clear Defense, Washington Examiner, and American Thinker, and has been a medical expert for Epoch Times. He is a leader in the MacArthur Society of West Point Graduates and a member of STARRS.US.
This letter is the opinion of the author and does not represent the stance of any organizations or corporations.