During a town hall-style event in Northern Virginia on Monday morning, a combat veteran asked Donald Trump what he would do about the "social engineering" that he says is happening in the military to allow women and transgender individuals to serve. The Republican presidential nominee agreed that the military has become too "politically correct" and said he would follow the recommendations of top military leaders.
Army Col. Don Bartholomew, who asked the question, accused the Obama administration of attacking the "warrior ethos" that has long been at the heart of the Army's success.
"The military has become an institution for social experiments and, as a result, the military has undergone a number of changes to regulations with regard to women in combat, transgender rights and other issues," Bartholomew said. "None of these P.C. actions were combat-effective or readiness-driven. In fact, the opposite is happening. Deployability, readiness and morale are all adversely affected. So my question to you is: What will you do about the social engineering and political correctness that has been imposed upon our military?"
"Well, we're going to get away from political correctness, and we are going to have to do that," Trump told the audience at a Retired American Warriors event in Herndon. He then compared political correctness in the military to the outcry he faced when he praised profiling as a police and security tactic.
"You're right," Trump said. "We have a politically correct military, and it's getting more and more politically correct every day. And a lot of the great people in this room don't even understand how it's possible to do that. And that's through intelligence, not through ignorance -- believe me -- because some of the things that they're asking you to do and be politically correct about are ridiculous."
When it came to the examples Bartholomew provided, Trump said that he would leave such decisions to top military leaders.
"We'd get our military people to come back and make recommendations to me, and I will follow those recommendations," Trump said. "I will follow them very strongly."
The military has made a number of policy changes in the last few years that have not always been popular with the rank-and-file. In 2011, the Obama administration repealed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prohibited gay service members from serving openly.
Last December, the Pentagon announced it would open all jobs and units to women, as long as they could meet the rigorous requirements that go with them. Although a full integration is now underway, no woman has yet to become a Navy SEAL or a Marine Corps infantry officer.
And on July 1, the Department of Defense dropped its long-held ban on transgender people serving in the military and began to pay for medical treatment for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria. That decision was made after a long, belabored process during which the Pentagon missed a self-imposed deadline because of internal resistance.
Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.