John J. Bastiat / January 12, 2022

Air Force Under Fire for Lowering Standards

It seems that the USAF was more interested in a woman succeeding than earning.

When is a standard not a standard? Answer: When it’s a “norm.” At least, that’s the senseless answer the U.S. Air Force provided through Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), when asked why Air Force standards don’t apply uniformly to all candidates in one of its elite training programs.

We note in passing that whenever this kind of doublespeak is invoked by a government official, an agenda follows closely in trail. In this case, the agenda is a radical attempt to erase this fundamental truth: men and women are different. Well, they aren’t, according to AFSOC: The two sexes are identical, at least from a “standards” standpoint. They just aren’t identical from a “norms” standpoint — see?

The backdrop for this insane revelation was an anonymous memo published in The Washington Free Beacon. The memo stated that a female candidate in an AFSOC specialized training program has continually failed to meet the program’s physical standards, yet she is still being pushed through that program. This notwithstanding the fact she also repeatedly quit the program.

This training, a prerequisite to join the Air Force’s elite Special Tactics ranks, is designed to vet candidates against the rigors of the extreme combat environments in which they are likely to find themselves upon joining the Special Warfare unit. Normally, a candidate who either quits or fails to meet the program’s demanding standards is reassigned. So why is she still in the program?

Enter Lt. Gen. Slife’s doublespoken explanation: “We can unequivocally say the standards … have not changed. However, there is a difference between standards and norms.” Sure, Jim — just like there is a difference between black and ebony or white and alabaster, right? Put more directly, look up “standard” and then look up its synonyms. Topping the list: “Norm.” And how, according to Slife, do standards and norms differ? Well, a standard is “tied to [the] mission,” but a norm “may adapt over time.” Translating AFSOC-twaddle into English puts into correct perspective the utter meaninglessness of those statements: We aren’t changing the standards; we’re just changing the standards needed to meet those standards, that’s all.

The underpinnings of this institutionalized buffoonery trace back to 2015, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened all combat roles to women. Many from the special operations community voiced concerns back then that introducing women into physically demanding combat roles would drive lower standards and ultimately impact combat effectiveness. As the anonymous memo notes, however, the issue is not about women in combat roles, per se; the issue is about lowering the standards for those roles, standards set based on the demanding requirements of those roles: “The military community is not against women serving in the Air Force Special Warfare unit. However, we want the first female to have earned the beret and NOT have been given it.”

But give credit to the good general where it’s due. The mental ju-jitsu required to deliver his our-double-standard-isn’t-a-double-standard message without erupting in a full-blown belly chortle is extraordinary. But beyond the doublespeak, how does his explanation square with leaving a candidate with consistently substandard performance in a highly selective combat training program, and doing so even after that candidate has repeatedly attempted to quit the program?

It doesn’t.

That’s also likely why Slife felt the need to double down on his doublespeak by invoking cancel-culture tactics and defamation: “Regrettably, the author chose to make the point about standards by highlighting one individual trainee. Singling out a fellow service member for public abuse is bullying and harassment, which are unacceptable deviations from both our standards and our norms.”

Well, first, General, the “one” individual trainee just happens to be the only one singled out for preferential treatment. And the “singling out” wasn’t of the candidate as such, but of the double standards AFSOC is currently implementing in its showcase training program. Finally, pointing out blatant discrimination in a military training program — discrimination solely based on sex — hardly rises to the level of “public abuse,” “bullying,” or “harassment.” If anything, these epithets apply much more fittingly to Slife’s slanders, not to the anonymous author, an author who is keenly aware of the threat posed by being identified as the one who is pointing out the AFSOC emperor’s “new clothes.”

One thing is certain, as Representative Mike Waltz (R-FL), a former Green Beret now on the House Armed Services Committee, aptly stated: “In the military, we shouldn’t care about gender, skin color, and religious background. All that matters is whether one meets the standards in place that has made the American military the best in the world. The moment we lower those standards, we are messaging to our adversaries we no longer care about military readiness.” All too true, Congressman Waltz.

And our adversaries are receiving that message loud and clear.

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