Republican senators have written a letter to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, expressing their concern over the Navy’s enlistment of an active-duty drag queen to serve as a “digital ambassador.”
Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, who performs under the stage name Harpy Daniels and identifies as non-binary, was one of five Navy Digital Ambassadors as part of a pilot program that ran between October and March.
The senators accused the Navy of dodging professional standards. They noted Kelley’s use of TikTok, an app that has been the subject of ongoing national security concerns and is banned for use on government devices.
“While we understand the importance of social media for modern recruiting, we are concerned about both the promotion of a banned app and behavior that many deem inappropriate in a professional workplace,” the senators wrote.
The senators also expressed concern over the privacy, security, and professionalism of the Navy’s recruiting campaign.
They also noted that the service should follow both the letter and spirit of the law and its own social media policies.
“At a time when our nation’s military is facing a recruiting crisis, it is as important as ever to reach broader swaths of the eligible population—but not at the cost of privacy, security, or professionalism,” the letter added.
The Navy barely achieved its recruitment target for new sailors last fiscal year, according to Navy Times, but missed its target for active-duty officer promotions and reserve officers by almost 400.
The Navy aims to grow from 341,736 in the fiscal year 2023 to 347,000 members in 2024.
The senators have requested information about the status of the pilot program, including data on its effectiveness and any compensation provided to ambassadors, as well as whether the Navy is “actively encouraging” recruiters to use TikTok on their devices despite the federal prohibition.
“At a time when our nation’s military is facing a recruiting crisis, it is as important as ever to reach broader swaths of the eligible population—but not at the cost of privacy, security, or professionalism,” the letter stated.
The letter was signed by Senators Ted Budd (R-NC), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).
The senators hope that the Navy will respond to their concerns and take appropriate action to ensure its recruiting campaign is both professional and effective.