The Ministry of Defence has 93 different diversity networks for personnel to discuss race, gender and mental health, The Telegraph can reveal.
The staff networks, which are groups for civil servants and those serving in the Armed Forces to discuss issues around diversity, include seven for LGBT issues, 14 for race issues and 10 for gender issues.
The groups issue diversity guidance, display posters and celebrate diversity related events across the forces.
In comparison, the Home Office has 19 formal staff networks and the Ministry of Justice has 18, while the MoD has 20 focused on disability issues alone including the Defence Neuro Inclusivity Network, Defence Stammering Network and the Defence Epilepsy Network.
Last month John Glen, the Cabinet Office minister, ordered a review into Civil Service diversity networks as a part of a drive to maintain its impartiality.
He said confusion existed around how the networks operate. “That’s why we want to issue new guidance to inform and clarify how they work,” he said.
The Sunday Telegraph has revealed that the Army wants to relax security checks for recruits from overseas to boost diversity.
Richard Drax: ‘I am appalled at the level of wokeness that has infiltrated our Armed Forces’
Credit: Peter Willows/BNPS
Amid a recruitment crisis, especially among candidates from ethnic minorities, it has been suggested that security clearance requirements for overseas candidates could be challenged to improve representation in the intelligence and officer corps.
Some of the MoD’s diversity networks have promoted celebrations such as Transgender Day of Visibility.
According to a blog post on the MoD intranet, on March 31 2023 the Army LGBT+ Network “facilitated a gathering of members of the Army’s Trans Community” for Transgender Day of Visibility.
The post, written by the network, said: “The current toxic undertone in media, political & cultural discourse is affecting our people. Likewise there are still instances of active & passive Transphobia (& Homophobia) occurring within our Service.”
The post concluded: “As a final parting shot the Army Trans Day of Visibility will only remain necessary until the point that inclusive behaviours are instinctive within the Army’s muscle memory, its culture, and the minds of all of its people.”
Richard Drax, the Conservative MP, told The Telegraph: “What we need is an army that is ready to fight, not wonder what they should call each other or what gender they are.
“I am appalled at the level of wokeness that has infiltrated our Armed Forces which damages morale and weakens effectiveness.
“Having served in the Army, I know that all we cared about was whether the man or woman to our left and right could do the job.
“The problem with this focus on diversity is that it creates division where there is none. I want to make it clear that prejudice is unacceptable and must be dealt with appropriately but political correctness on the scale the DT has uncovered is laughable when you consider the very real threats we face around the world. I’m sure our enemies are shaking in their boots with fear,” he said.
The Royal Navy’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression Network for LGBT sailors has produced posters, seen by The Telegraph, which have been placed on Royal Navy noticeboards.
One such poster defines the 51 “most commonly used” terms around LGBT issues, including “LGBPTTQQIIAA+”, defined as “any combination of letters attempting to represent all the identities of the queer community, this near-exhaustive one (but not exhaustive) represents Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Intergender, Asexual, Ally.”
The MoD groups include the RAF Gender Network, the Royal Navy Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression Network, the RAF Allies Network and the MoD Race Network.
According to the Army’s Inclusive Behaviours guidance, published in June 2022, defence networks “bring employees with mutual characteristics such as gender, race, sexual orientation” together to host “conferences and events” and work on “social and development opportunities [and] mentoring”.
Research from the Taxpayers’ Alliance found that £309,090 of taxpayers’ money was spent to support 187 staff networks across 12 government departments between 2019 to 2022, not including the Ministry of Defence.
A poster from the Royal Navy Inclusion Allies network asks sailors “Are you an ally?” in relation to minority groups.
The RAF’s Gender Network wrote an MoD blog post celebrating International Pronouns Day in October 2023 entitled “What are Personal Pronouns and why do they matter?”
The network wrote “it can be offensive or harassing to guess at someone’s pronouns” and pointed to examples of “neopronouns” including “xe/xir/xirs, ze/zir/zirs and fae/faer/faers”; the RAF network defines these as “pronouns that were directly created or adapted within the language instead of evolving with it”.
The Ministry of Defence was approached for comment.