The Pentagon’s former personnel chief announced Monday that he’s making a run for Congress again, after losing his competitive seat back in 2020.
Gil Cisneros, a Navy veteran turned representative for California’s 39th Congressional District, just finished a stint as Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. From August 2021 until Sept. 8, he oversaw diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as abortion-related travel policies that have spurred the ire of Republican lawmakers. They’ve threatened to derail the next defense spending bill unless those policies are ended.
“As I witness the continued attacks by MAGA extremists on the programs, and policies that I implemented at DoD and fought for in Congress, like access to reproductive care, environmental protections, and gun safety legislation, I know that our work is not done, which is why I am announcing my candidacy for Congress,” Cisneros said on his campaign website.
Cisneros told Military Times before he departed his DoD post that diversity initiatives “play a crucial role in both recruiting and retaining talent while ensuring that every service member has a clear pathway to opportunities.” He called the work “more than demographics. Diverse backgrounds, skillsets, and experiences contribute to the innovative thought, creative adaptation, and cultural understanding necessary to successfully operate in today’s complex, asymmetric environments,” he said in emailed comments.
House Republicans are fighting those initiatives by loading next year’s defense spending bill with amendments to rid the Pentagon of its diversity and inclusion office, along with reviewing department diversity initiatives, which they claim politicize the military.
And Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville has placed a hold on all uniformed and civilian Pentagon nominees because of the abortion travel policy Cisneros helped craft. It covers costs for troops that have to travel to access the procedure if they are stationed in states that ban abortions. Tuberville is demanding the policy’s repeal, leaving more than 300 service members waiting for promotions, and the Army, Navy and Marine Corps operating without their top leaders.
Politico first reported Cisneros’ campaign launch. The Navy veteran began his political career after winning a multi-million-dollar lottery. He narrowly won election to Congress in 2018 in traditionally conservative Orange County, California, but lost his re-election campaign by a similarly narrow margin in 2020. He is now running in a more Democratic neighboring district, represented by retiring Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.