FIRST ON FOX: The U.S. Department of Defense is spending $91,000 on diversity and inclusion seminars for the Air Force Band.
The DOD awarded the contract on May 6 to the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra in Philadelphia, which will provide the trainings for the Air Force Band, which has 184 active-duty members.
According to its website, the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra’s mission “is to take the audience beyond spectatorship to participation in the musical experience by combining artistic excellence with cultural diversity and innovative community engagement.”
“Black Pearl’s education and community engagement activities are unique because they offer audiences unprecedented and direct access to the musicians and conductor,” the orchestra’s website states. “These award-winning programs were created by Maestro Johnson who believes that giving audiences – regardless of their level of knowledge – the opportunity to reach into an art form for a more direct experience, is the best way to engage them.”
Members of the U.S. Air Force Band await the start of a state visit arrival ceremony for French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on Dec. 1, 2022. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
The same orchestra received a $100,000 grant in June from the National Endowment for the Arts, using funds from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan “to support personnel and facilities expenses in response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The DOD and Air Force did not respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for more information on the contract with Black Pearl, which expires May 5, 2023.
Republicans, service members and veterans have been sounding the alarm about so-called “wokeness” in the military, saying the DOD’s focus on diversity and inclusion under Biden is weakening America’s defense and tanking recruitment.
The U.S. Department of Defense is spending $91,000 on diversity and inclusion seminars for the Air Force Band. (Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images)
Several service members told Fox News Digital in October that military recruits are being indoctrinated by left-wing dogma and that senior members who speak out on the issue risk their careers or retirement pensions.
“Merely questioning the goals or methods used to promote ‘equity and diversity’ is punished and that punishment is swift, harsh and public,” one service member said.
“When I encouraged military whistleblowers to share their concerns privately, we were flooded with hundreds of messages about declining standards and degraded capabilities,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., wrote in an op-ed for Fox News Digital last month. “In some cases, essential training in weapons systems, navigation, and ship handling is falling by the wayside, while commanders are forced to prioritize woke ‘diversity’ trainings you’d expect to see on a liberal-arts campus.”
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently launched a website in an effort to “stop the spread of wokeness throughout our armed forces.”
“I can assure you that there’s no Russian general, no Iranian leader, no Chinese Communist Party admiral, who’s spending one second thinking about gender or woke ideology or climate change,” Pompeo said in an ad by his nonprofit group CAVFUND. “They’re thinking about how to kill Americans and the fight is on. We have to walk away from this radical left ideology. We cannot let it penetrate our military.”
FILE – The U.S. Air Force Band plays during a concert at Wolf Trap Farm in 1979. (HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A new poll by the Reagan National Defense Forum said the vast majority of Americans – 62% – believe the military is becoming overly politicized.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth defended the military’s initiatives in October, saying diversity and inclusion programs are “important.”
“But, first of all, if ‘woke’ means we are not focused on warfighting, we are not focused on readiness, that doesn’t reflect what I see at installations all around the country or overseas when I go and visit,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Navy is set to begin accepting more recruits who score in the lowest aptitude percentile allowed on military entrance tests as all branches of the military face recruiting headwinds.
“As we continue to navigate a challenging recruiting environment, changing the AFQT requirement removes a potential barrier to enlistment, allowing us to widen the pool of potential recruits and creating opportunities for personnel who wish to serve,” Cmdr. David Benham, a spokesperson for Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, told Military.com in a report Monday.
The Army previously announced that it missed its 2022 fiscal year recruiting goals by 15,000.
Jessica Chasmar is a digital writer on the politics team for Fox News and Fox Business. Story tips can be sent to Jessica.Chasmar@fox.com.