Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said during a Heritage Foundation event on Thursday that critical race theory will have the "most corrosive" influence on the military if left unchecked.
The Arkansas senator, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said critical race theory's presence in the armed forces may merit additional scrutiny, and that he may question military officers up for senior promotions about their views on the controversial theory.
"I may start probing nominees to be promoted to the ranks of O-7 to O-10 on their views on it," Cotton said. "Military nominations are handled at the staff level, so there’s not a deep review of them unless there’s a red flag…. Maybe it’s time to change that. Maybe it’s time to ensure our flag officers subscribe to those very basic principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence or Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech."
The remarks come as critical race theory seeps into the military. A reading list put out by chief of naval operations Adm. Michael Gilday included books on so-called systemic racism. And military service academies like West Point and the Naval Academy have introduced diversity training materials and instituted standards that apply concepts of the radical theory.
Joint chiefs of staff chairman Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers in a June hearing the use of such materials is not at odds with the military's mission and could even help service members. "I want to understand white rage," he said. "And I'm white."
Rep. Mike Waltz (R., Fla.), who initiated the exchange with Milley, later said the top general's view was "wrong and misinformed," since proponents of critical race theory often argue the only way to "combat racism is with racism."
Cotton, a former Army Ranger, and Navy SEAL veteran Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas) set up an anonymous tip line for service members in May to report critical race theory in the ranks of the armed forces. The tip line, Cotton said, has already received hundreds of comments.
"All the troops who have been contacting us—sometimes veterans and family members of troops—are all deeply concerned about it," he said. "The military is one of the most important institutions in our society. They don’t just play a kid’s game for money or sell sugary beverages. The institution that keeps us free and safe makes almost everything else possible in our country and protects our way of life."