House Republicans on NDAA—A Missed Opportunity to Fix the Military?

Evgeny Atamanenko /
Evgeny Atamanenko /

The American public is demanding the return of meritocracy in our military, where individuals rise based on abilities, skills, and performance rather than arbitrary traits like race or gender. This push seeks to end the toxic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mandates that foster race-based discrimination. Meritocracy ensures the most capable individuals advance, bolstering the military’s effectiveness and cohesion.

In response, the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2025 proposes some measures to support these goals. However, one supposedly “meritocratic” provision in the House bill, Section 523 of HR 8070, is so vague it might inadvertently promote the very woke agenda it aims to counter.

Section 523 is labeled as a “meritocracy” provision, yet its lack of specificity could let the Department of Defense (DOD) bureaucrats continue racial discrimination in personnel actions. Worse, the undefined term “sex” could be twisted to harm women and push radical gender ideologies. The unintended consequences can be significant when vague terms are made into law.

The Biden administration has argued, before the Supreme Court no less, that racial and gender preferences in military academy admissions are crucial for a balanced racial and gender makeup in the military. This balance, they claim, is necessary for maintaining discipline and national security. Despite ongoing legal battles, the DOD clings to the notion that “diversity is a strategic imperative.”

The NDAA’s “merit provision” appears to prohibit discrimination by stating that personnel actions should be based on “individual merit and demonstrated performance,” without regard to such things as political affiliation, race, color, sex, religion, or marital status. But closer inspection reveals that unless the House-Senate conference committee fixes this provision, it will merely give the DOD a green light to continue its discriminatory practices, including letting men into women-only spaces.

This so-called “merit provision” resembles the DOD’s existing Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) program, which, under the Biden administration, has allowed racial and gender preferences in decisions like promotions and assignments. The DOD also extends protected status to “gender identity” and sexual orientation, enabling policies that let men who identify as women use women’s facilities and serve under women’s physical standards.

The military’s obsession with DEI has wrecked recruiting goals, lowered morale, reduced training time for essential combat tasks, and decreased overall readiness.

To create a true meritocracy, Congress must amend the NDAA before it reaches President Biden’s desk:

  1. Ensure personnel actions are solely based on merit. Currently, the provision requires considering “merit and demonstrated performance,” but it doesn’t demand that these are the only factors.
  2. Define merit using objective criteria, such as training, experience, and skills, explicitly excluding race, sex, and gender identity.
  3. Clearly define “sex” as biological sex to prevent misinterpretations that include “gender identity” or “gender expression.”

Without these changes, the DOD will continue exploiting loopholes to advance its divisive DEI agenda. The Pentagon is not new to holding meetings to circumvent statutory language hindering preferred policies, and similar tactics will be used here.

Unlike the DOE’s Title IX expansion, which federal courts have challenged, the DOD’s internal rules aren’t subject to judicial review. Hence, the DOD can interpret loose NDAA language to further its agenda unimpeded. The courts won’t solve this—only Congress can.

The clearest sign that this “merit provision” won’t halt the DOD’s discriminatory practices is the Biden administration’s lack of opposition. If the provision truly threatened their DEI efforts, it would be on their list of NDAA provisions to oppose. It isn’t.

Congressional Republicans missed a chance to close these loopholes with a few precise words and definitions. The House’s oversight left the DOD grinning. What’s wrong with this picture?