To great public fanfare, Joe Biden has anointed Rachel Levine a “four-star admiral” in the Public Health Service (PHS). The public relations campaign in support of Levine has emphasized his status as the first transgender four-star “admiral” in the “eight U.S. uniformed services.” That PR campaign is misleading, and it is part of a dangerous effort to undermine the military.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) kicked off the propaganda campaign, leading with the “four-star transgender” meme: On October 19, it announced “the nation’s first openly transgender four-star officer across any of the eight uniformed services of the United States. (emphasis here and below is added). HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra reinforced the theme: “Admiral Levine’s historic appointment as the first openly transgender four-star officer is a giant step forward towards equality as a nation.” The U.S. surgeon general touted Levine as “first openly transgender four-star officer to serve in any of the uniformed services.”
The media parroted the party line. Here is The New York Times: “She [sic] is also the first openly transgender person to become a four-star officer in any of the nation’s eight uniformed services.” USA Today’s contribution was virtually indistinguishable: “Rachel Levine becomes first openly transgender 4-star officer across uniformed services.” Here’s The Washington Post: “Rachael Levine, openly transgendered health official sworn in as four-star admiral in Public Health Service.”
This roll-out and publicity barrage leave little doubt that Levine’s primary qualification for his instant promotion is his transgender status. What’s worse, it will damage U.S. military recruitment and morale, thus damaging U.S. national security.
This Is Politically Driven Rank Inflation
Yes, the Public Health Service is one of the eight “uniformed services” but, notwithstanding the uniforms and its bureaucrats designated as “admirals,” it is not part of the “armed forces.”
The U.S. armed forces are the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Space Force. The other two government departments in the category of “uniformed services” are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps and the Public Health Services Commissioned Officer Corps. In addition to their Navy-like uniforms, these two also are headed by bureaucrats designated “admirals.”
Four-star is the highest rank in the U.S. military. Although nine five-star admirals and generals served in World War II, the five-star rank was retired upon the death of Gen. Omar Bradley in 1981, leaving four-star generals as the highest rank.
The four-star designation calls to mind such historical and accomplished military men as Admiral William Halsey Jr., who commanded the Pacific Fleet in the fight-to-the-death against Japan (and was promoted to five-star rank only after the end of the war), and such notables as Gen. George Patton, recipient of two distinguished service crosses for heroism in battle and the American commander most feared by the Germans in World War II.
Even Patton was a “mere” three-star general when he commanded the Third Army in its drive through Europe into the heart of Germany, and was only awarded his fourth star less than a month before the war’s end. Thus, while maneuvering his Third Army to relieve Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, Patton would have been outranked by now-Admiral Levine.
In short, promotion to the four-star level normally indicates decades of military service, often in dangerous and life-threatening circumstances, and military achievements of the highest order. Levine does not remotely merit any comparison with these or any of the other accomplished four-star officers, whether admirals or generals.
This Would Be Ridiculous If It Weren’t So Offensive
The administration’s publicity campaign seeking to present Levine as an accomplished four-star admiral is a fraud, particularly coupled with the references to all the uniformed services, as if they are somehow comparable. Although now designated as an “admiral,” Levine commands no sailors, no submarines, and no ships. At least the admiral managing the NOAA has ships and aircraft to command.
Unlike Navy admirals, Levin did not become an admiral after decades of service, including overseas deployments, time away from family, and the hazards that accompany military service. Nor did he attend Annapolis or any other service academy, or even Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) or officer candidate school. He was never an ensign, lieutenant, commander, captain, or even a vice admiral.
Others have documented Levine’s failures in the public health arena. In view of that record, no one can even claim that he is the best person to head PHS out of the hundreds of thousands of physicians in the United States. That is why the PR campaign emphasized his purported gender status. There is no doubt that he is most famous for claiming to be a woman, after 33 years of marriage and fathering two children with a real woman.
This Will Damage American Security
Americans should consider the cumulative effect that this and similar boneheaded decisions have on military retention and morale and whether they are done by design. Consider for a moment the perspective of, for example, an Army major or Navy lieutenant commander with 10 to 15 years of service. Or perhaps consider a Marine gunnery sergeant or Army master sergeant with the same amount of service.
Let us assume that he is in one of the special operations units, such as the Army Special Forces, Recon Marines or SEALS, since they are still engaged in combat. Such an officer or NCO has worked extremely hard to receive each promotion. He has been at war for his entire adult life and probably has between 6 and 10 combat deployments, which amount to years away from his family.
He may have been wounded, perhaps multiple times. At the bare minimum, he and his family have had to cope with horrendous personal and family stress, among other issues. Now he sees a man with no military experience summarily appointed to six grades above him to the rank of four-star admiral—the equivalent of General Patton, for Pete’s sake—purely as a political sop.
Does anyone in this administration conceive of the damage to morale that this can cause? Do they care? This tells American servicemen and women that their sacrifices are not appreciated, their service is not valued, and that they will not be treated with equal fairness.
Are we going to see a rash of resignations in reaction to this one incident? No. But it most assuredly is another blow at the foundation of the military, another effort to use it as a lab for social experimentation and to force political conformity upon those who remain.
This is part of the effort to purge the military of non-leftists and to seed the ranks with “woke,” politically conscious officers and NCOs who will hew to the “progressive” party line. It is part of the pattern that includes Biden’s purge of Trump appointees from the service academies’ boards, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s search for alleged “domestic terrorists” in the ranks, and Gen. Mark Milley’s focus on the “white rage” supposedly permeating the services. It is part of leftist ideology’s ever-growing danger to the U.S. military and therefore to the country.