President Biden speaks at the Pentagon on Feb. 10.

President Biden speaks at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Alex Brandon / Pool via AP

Biden: ‘I Will Never Politicize’ US Troops

Biden also announced a new Pentagon-led review of military strategy towards China.

In his first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief, President Joe Biden vowed that he would never “politicize” U.S. troops, in a clear signal that he intends to set a different tone than his predecessor.

"I will never dishonor you. I will never disrespect you. I will never politicize the work you do,” Biden said in an address directed at U.S. service members and delivered from a podium in the Pentagon press briefing room. 

The Pentagon under former President Trump was frequently buffeted by partisan political winds, with the commander-in-chief often charged with using uniformed service-members as props for explicitly political speeches of the sort typically not given before military audiences. By the end of his administration, images of the hyper-militarized response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests — including participation by the uniformed chairman of the joint chiefs of staff — had some scholars warning of a full-blown crisis in civil-military relations. 

On Wednesday, Biden sought to set a more apolitical tone, focusing his remarks on issues directly related to the Pentagon workforce and his attitudes about the use of military force. He emphasized that his administration would prioritize diversity within the ranks and seek to eradicate sexual assault in the military.

“Right now, more than 40 percent of our active duty service members are people of color,” Biden said. “It’s long past time that the full diversity and full strength of our forces is reflected at every level in this department.” 

“This administration is dedicated to ensuring that every single person is treated with dignity and respect,” he said, citing his recent move to overturn a Trump-era ban on service by transgender Americans. 

Biden highlighted a long list of Black service members dating back to the American Revolution, including Henry Flipper, the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Roscoe Robinson, the first African American four-star general. 

He and Vice President Kamala Harris later visited an area of the Pentagon honoring Black service members. 

Biden also announced a new Pentagon-led review of the U.S. military strategy towards China, including operational concepts, force posture, and technology concerns. The task force is expected to work over the next several months to produce recommendations for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to guide his approach to China. 

Biden also spoke emotionally about his own experience as the father of a deployed service-member. Biden’s late son, Beau, served with Austin in Iraq. 

“This is personal for me. The Biden family is a military family,” Biden said. “We learned first hand some of what your loved one’s experience when Beau was deployed to Iraq. We dealt with the stress of his absence from the daily joys of life and we worried constantly about his safe return.” 

Austin also gave brief remarks from the podium, praising Biden, but neither he nor the president took questions. 

Austin has yet to sit for an interview or take questions from the press since his confirmation last month.