By Shawn Fleetwood
The U.S. Navy confirmed on Tuesday it has discontinued an online recruiting initiative featuring an enlisted drag queen that was aimed at bringing new sailors into the service.
In May, The Daily Caller revealed that the Navy brought on Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley — an active-duty drag queen who goes by the stage name Harpy Daniels and identifies as non-binary — to be a “Navy Digital Ambassador.” The Digital Ambassador Pilot Program, which ran from October 2022 to March 2023, was reportedly “designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates” for military recruitment.
In a letter sent to Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., on Tuesday, Erik Raven, the under-secretary of the Navy, confirmed that the branch’s Digital Ambassador Pilot Program “will not be continued.”
“The Navy learned lessons from the pilot program that will inform our digital engagement and outreach going forward,” Raven wrote. “Our digital outreach efforts will maintain the important distinction between Sailors’ official activities and their personal lives.”
Tuberville — who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee — previously sent a letter to Admiral Michael M. Gilday, the chief of Naval Operations, in May, demanding to know the identities of the officers tasked with funding and promoting drag queen shows aboard naval vessels. The letter was sent the same day the Alabama senator and his Republican colleagues submitted a separate communique to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro on the branch’s embrace of Daniels and whether Navy leadership is encouraging its “digital ambassadors” and public affairs personnel to use TikTok — which the Pentagon banned its members from using on government-issued devices — “on their personal devices” in order to skirt the agency’s prohibition.
In his Tuesday letter to Tuberville, Raven claimed the Navy followed existing guidelines restricting the use of TikTok and that while some sailors partaking in the digital ambassador program “had [a] personal social media presence on TikTok,” the branch did not issue government devices for purposes of participating in the venture. Raven further contended the branch will “continue to communicate” to its members the “national security risks associated with their use of TikTok on personal devices.”
The Navy’s embrace of Daniels — which generated backlash among many military veterans — comes amid the branch’s failure to meet existing recruiting targets. On Thursday, acting Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti confirmed that the Navy is expected to miss its fiscal year 2023 recruiting goals by roughly 7,000 sailors. The revelation came days after the Air Force announced it would miss its “active-duty recruiting goals for the first time since 1999.”
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