Biden defends Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin after he sparred with Matt Gaetz over military 'wokeness'
- President Joe Biden had sharp words for Rep. Matt Gaetz after he criticized the Defense Department.
- Rep. Matt Gaetz wound up in a shouting match with the secretary of defense at a committee hearing.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ended up in a shouting match with Rep. Matt Gaetz during his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden came to Austin's defense while addressing a national union conference.
"Secretary Austin basically looked at him and said, 'What the hell do you think we've done? Why do you think they're able to fight? We've trained them and we've given them weapons. That's what's happening," Biden said.
Austin was on Capitol Hill to discuss the Defense Department's 2023 budget request, but Gaetz used his five-minute round to ask about the US military's "wokeness" and how it has led to apparent Defense Department failures.
The Florida Republican asked Austin about a lecture the French economist Thomas Picketty gave at the US National Defense University titled "Responding to China: The Case for Global Justice and Democratic Socialism."
"Why should American taxpayers fund lectures at the National Defense University that promote socialism as a strategy to combat China?" Gaetz asked.
When Austin said he was unfamiliar with the lecture, Gaetz called his lack of knowledge of the coursework at NDU "surprising" and asked if he thought "embracing socialism" would be an "effective strategy to combat China."
The exchange continued until Gaetz accused Austin of "blowing a lot of calls lately on matters of strategy."
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"Mr Secretary, you guys told us that Russia couldn't lose. You told us that the Taliban couldn't immediately win," Gaetz said. "And so I guess I'm wondering what in the $773 billion that you're requesting today is going to help you make assessments that are accurate in the face of so many blown calls."
"I'm sorry you are embarrassed by your country," Austin replied. "Has it not occurred to you that Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we've done and our allies have done?"
Gaetz said the Defense Department is "behind in hypersonics" and has "failed to deter Russia."
Austin replied: "What do you mean we're behind in hypersonics; how do you make that assessment?"
In March, the US quietly tested the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept, CNN reported on Tuesday.
The Lockheed Martin-made weapon successfully launched from a B-52 bomber off the West Coast, a defense official told CNN. In September 2021, DARPA announced the Air Force successfully tested the Raytheon-made HAWC, but offered few details about the launch other than the fact that the missile was faster than Mach 5.
The March test happened days after Russia said it used its own hypersonic missile during its invasion of Ukraine.
US officials downplayed the use of the Russian Kinzhal missile. Austin said he didn't view the missile as a "game changer" and Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said it was "hard to know what exactly the justification" for Russia's use of the missile since it targeted a storage facility.
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