On Tuesday, U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) sent a letter to Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley regarding past and upcoming drag shows on military installations.
The letter highlights the DoD’s pervasive and persistent use of taxpayer dollars for drag events. Rep. Gaetz is demanding answers to all questions posed in the letter and clarification on whether any punitive action has or will be taken against individuals who facilitated drag events with taxpayer dollars by June 12th, 2023.
Dear Secretary Austin and General Milley,
On March 29, 2023, during the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the “FY24 Defense Budget Request,” I questioned you about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs within the Department of Defense (DoD). I find it completely unacceptable that DoD is using taxpayer dollars to fund DEI programs that are divisive in nature. DoD resources should be used for mission-essential operations, not diverted toward initiatives that create cultural fissures within our service ranks.
When I highlighted specific cases of drag queen story hours and drag shows occurring on U.S. military bases, shockingly, you indicated you were unaware that such events are taking place. However, I am pleased to know you do not support these drag events and agree with me that they should not be happening. To aid you in executing the agreed-upon elimination of DoD-funded drag events, I have enclosed supplementary documents that further highlight the DoD’s pervasive and persistent use of taxpayer dollars for drag events. I have also included questions throughout this correspondence, which I require answers to so that the House Armed Services Committee can conduct further oversight of this matter.
- May 27, 2022: Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany. Local drag queen Stacey Teed planned to hold a 30-minute story time for kids at an on-base library. This was briefed to the Chairman on May 28, 2022, in Defense Morning Clips. “A librarian from the Ramstein libraries posted her dismay at the cancellation, writing: ‘We’re being forced to cancel all drag events on Ramstein due to a minority of people that have nothing to do with our base community.’” This commentary from a DoD-paid librarian is very troubling, as U.S. forward-deployed base communities involve us all. I request answers to the following questions:
- As you know, this event was canceled, but how much DoD funding was intended for it? If the funding was not going to come out of the DoD’s budget, what was the source of it?
- Did Ramstein conduct background checks on the proposed performers prior to scheduling this event?
- Prior to its cancelation, how many service members were diverted from their normal duties to help plan, organize, and facilitate the drag queen story hour?
- Has the base hosted any similar events since the cancelation of this one?
- July 30, 2022: Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Colonel Gregory Beualieu, Commander, 633d Air Base Wing approved the “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Summer Festival,” “providing funding for logistical requirements, such as a tent, stage, tables and chairs, etc.,” in which serial DoD drag performer “Harpy Daniels,” aka “The Navy Drag Queen,” performed at the family-friendly event. I request answers to the following questions:
- Secretary Austin, do you intend to issue a formal retraction of your testimony to the House Armed Services Committee regarding your stated belief that the DoD does not fund, or support drag events?
- Secretary Austin, you repeatedly stated that “drag shows is not something the DoD funds or supports.” Based on statements from Colonel Gregory Beualieu, who served as the Commander, 633dAir Base Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, who stated: “we [Joint Base Langley-Eustis] provided funding for logistics, tents, tables, and chairs.” His statement indicates that DoD did expend taxpayer dollars to fund a drag event.
- Secretary Austin, you should retract your statement or issue a formal apology for providing false testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
- Will the DoD issue guidance to prohibit base commanders from funding drag shows and events in the future?
- Will there be any disciplinary action taken for the misuse of military funding for drag events hosted on military bases?
- Under what authority did Joint Base Langley-Eustis pay for tents, stages, chairs, and logistical support for this drag event?
- June 17, 2022; Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. 99th Air Base Wing hosted a drag show at the Nellis Club on post featuring multiple drag performers. Colonel Josh DeMotts was the commander during this time. I request answers to the following questions:
- Under what authority does a commander approve, host, and fund burlesque drag shows on a military base utilizing taxpayer funding?
- What line item in the DoD budget is allocated for drag events or events of that nature?
- Will you both commit to reclaiming the exact dollar amounts commanders utilized for drag shows, drag queen story hours, and similar events?
- June 1, 2023; Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Nellis Air Force Base has announced a so-called “family-friendly” drag organized by the Nellis LGBTQ+ Pride Council for June 1, 2023. In this latest outright attack on children, this event is being advertised as having no minimum age requirement. I request answers to the following questions:
- You both testified before the House Armed Service Committee stating: “drag shows and drag events are not something the DoD supports or fund” and “I’d like to take a look at that material … I don’t agree with that, these things shouldn’t be happening.” Given those statements, has this drag event scheduled for June 1, 2023, on Nellis Air Force Base been reviewed and approved by either of you?
- Will the base provide funding for logistical support of this event?
- Does the DoD feel it’s appropriate for children to attend a sexualized drag performance?
- Why are base commanders defying your intent and direction by facilitating drag events?
- If this event goes forward, whether on June 1st or a later scheduled date, please provide an explanation regarding your justification for why you allowed the event to take place.
- June 30, 2022: Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. Drag performers, the “Mister Sisters,” hosted Drag Storytime and Drag Trivia at the Malmstrom AFB library and The Grizzly Bend, respectively. Colonel Anita Feugate-Opperman was commander during this period. I request answers to the following questions:
- What public comment period is available for civilian employees and service members to weigh in on their bases hosting of drag events?
- Does the DoD advertise these drag events to the general public?
- Do units hosting these drag events provide amplification for the participants using DoD social media?
- Is the unit social media platform advancing these events through push notifications to children, families, and civilians who follow the base on social media?
- Does the DoD think these drag events and push notifications might alienate those who disagree with DoD funding and hosting these drag events?
- March 3, 2023: US Navy hires active-duty drag queen to be face of recruitment drive. It has recently come to light that the U.S. Navy invited Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, the active-duty drag queen who identifies as “Harpy Daniels” and performed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, to be a “Digital Ambassador.” According to reports, this invitation was part of a recent drive “to attract the most talented and diverse workforce” and combat plunging recruitment. I request answers to the following questions:
- Did DoD promote any content from Joshua Kelley’s personal drag queen social media account on official DoD platforms?
- Was this “Digital Ambassador” promoted as a service member or as a drag queen?
- Are there any advertisements funded with taxpayer dollars that have no nexus to military service but simply promote drag queens?
- How much funding was dedicated to the Digital Ambassador position?
- Why did the Navy select a drag queen as a Digital Ambassador, and by what metrics will the DoD assess the effectiveness of promoting a drag queen on recruitment?
- It is highlighted in the supplementary documents that Joshua Kelley also performed a drag show on the Naval ship Ronald Reagan in November 2017 during a forward deployment. Does the Navy routinely authorize burlesque shows during work hours and while on deployment or operating in a forward capacity?
Please provide answers to all questions posed in this letter and clarification on whether any punitive action has or will be taken against individuals who facilitated drag events with taxpayer dollars by June 12, 2023. I appreciate your attention and await your reply.
Member of Congress