A trio of House lawmakers struck back at a senior Space Force official for criticizing states with “divisive” LGBTQ laws, saying the political remarks targeting GOP-run states threaten civil-military relations.
They want answers from Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall about the speech in which Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, deputy chief of space operations, decried what she said were more than 400 anti-LGBT bills introduced in state legislatures and warned those laws would hurt military readiness.
Specifically, the lawmakers want Mr. Kendall to confirm the policy for not politicking in uniform. They said Gen. Burt’s comments “seem to reflect a policy change.”
The speech “raises serious questions about civilian oversight of the military,” wrote Florida Reps. Mike Waltz and Gregory Steube and Texas Rep. Pat Fallon.
Mr. Waltz said Gen. Burt appeared to referring to Florida when she inappropriately commented on laws passed by elected officials that reflect the views of their constituents.
Patrick Space Force Base is located in Florida and is home to Space Launch Delta 45, formally known as the 45th Space Wing when it was part of the Air Force. The unit controls and operates Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The service’s Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) also will be located at Patrick SFB.
“If posting and promotion decisions for Patrick SFB and STARCOM are determined based on political considerations over state law, and the Space Force is posting less-qualified officers to Patrick SFB, that would be an egregious dereliction of the Defense Department’s primary responsibility to ensure the Armed Forces are ready to deter and if necessary, defeat our adversaries,” the lawmaker wrote.
During a Pentagon Pride event on June 7, Gen. Burt said anti-LGBT laws passed by state legislatures amount to a “threat to our readiness” and negatively affect military personnel. “The diverse and inclusive tapestry of the Department of Defense must continue to embrace the LGBTQ Plus community,” she said.
Space Force falls under the Department of the Air Force similar to how the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy.
When asked whether the Air Force believes Gen. Burt’s comments were appropriate, an Air Force spokesperson said the service “recognizes that various laws and legislation are being proposed and passed in states across America that may affect LGBTQ Airmen, Guardians and/or their LGBTQ dependents in different ways.”
The laws also impact personnel decisions she makes for Space Force members, such as promotions and assignments. While past job performance and relevant experience are primary considerations, a potential commander’s “personal circumstances” are also factored in, Gen. Burt said.
“If a good match for a job does not feel ‘safe’ being themselves and performing at their highest potential at a given location, or if their family could be denied critical health care due to the laws in that state, I am compelled to consider a different candidate and (someone who is) perhaps less qualified,” Gen. Burt said.
In the letter, the lawmakers asked Mr. Kendall to say whether the Space Force will base promotions and assignments on other hot-button issues, such as whether gun-owning service members should be assigned to bases located in states with restrictive firearms laws.
They said the U.S. faces an existential threat from China which views space as just another domain of war. “This challenge is too important to allow a general officer’s political views to impact military personnel decisions,” they said.