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Congressman attacks SECDEF Austin at hearing: ‘I’m embarrassed by you’

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) (Left) and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austing (Right) during an exchange on Capitol Hill, April 5, 2022. (Screenshot)
April 05, 2022

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin got into a heated exchange on Tuesday during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget for the 2023 fiscal year. During the exchange, Austin accused Gaetz of being “embarrassed by your country,” to which the congressman replied, “I’m embarrassed by your leadership, I am not embarrassed for my country.”

The heated exchange between Gaetz and Austin began, with Gaetz questioning Austin about the military’s increased focus on diversity training as well as a Feb. 16 lecture at National Defense University (NDU) that draws from author Thomas Piketty’s book “Time For Socialism.”

“You guys have been blowing a lot of calls lately on matters of strategy Mr. Secretary,” Gaetz continued, amid crosstalk from Austin. “You guys told us that Russia couldn’t lose, you told us that the Taliban couldn’t immediately win. 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.”

“You’ve seen what’s in our budget, you’ve seen how the budget matches the strategy, and so I’ll let that speak for itself,” Austin replied.

Gaetz then said the U.S. is “behind in hypersonics.”

“What do you mean we’re behind in hypersonics, how do you — how do you make that assessment,” Austin responded.

Gaetz said he and other lawmakers had been briefed on U.S. shortcomings in hypersonic technology.

“China is fielding hypersonic weapon systems and we’re still testing them,” Gaetz said. “I make that assessment because Russia actually used one. By the way, you’re own people brief us that we are behind and that China is winning. Are you aware of the briefings that we get on hypersonics?”

Last summer, China tested a hypersonic vehicle that circled the earth, demonstrating the ability to potentially strike the U.S. from relatively undefended directions. Days after learning about the Chinese test, the U.S. was forced to scrub one of its own hypersonic tests due to a failure with a booster system. In October, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley called China’s hypersonic test “very concerning.”

In November, U.S. Space Force Gen. David Thomas, the Vice Chief of Space Operations, said the U.S. is behind Russia and China in terms of hypersonic weapons and has “a lot of catching up to do” and “very quickly.”

“While everyone else in the world seems to be developing capabilities and being more strategic, we’ve got time to embrace critical race theory at West Point, to embrace socialism at the National Defense University, to do mandatory pronoun trainings,” Gaetz said.

Austin responded by saying the U.S. military is the “most capable, the most combat credible force in the world” and said that trend will continue before adding, “That fact that you are embarrassed by your country, I’m sorry for that.”

“Oh no, no, no, I’m embarrassed by your leadership,” Gaetz interjected. “I am not embarrassed for my country.

Gaetz said it was “disgraceful that you would sit hear and conflate your failures with the failures of the uniformed service members.”

“You guys said Russia would totally overrun Ukraine in 36 days, you said that the Taliban would be kept at bay for months,” Gaetz continued. “You totally blew those calls and maybe we would be better at them if the National Defense University actually worked a little more on strategy and a little less on wokism.”

“Has it occurred to you that Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we’ve done and our allies have done?” Austin said. “Have you ever even thought about that?”