Posted on November 5, 2023

‘He Sees All White People as Racist’: Military Assessment Criticizes Air Force Colonel’s Leadership

Rob Bluey, Daily Signal, November 2, 2023

Col. Ben Jonsson, an Air Force officer who accused his fellow “white colonels” of being “blind to institutional racism,” is the subject of blistering criticism from subordinates at MacDill Air Force Base, where he served as commander from 2020 to 2022.

Jonsson is among the more than 300 military officers awaiting Senate approval for a promotion. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has blocked Democrats—and now some Republicans—from rubber-stamping these promotions in a dispute over the Pentagon’s taxpayer-funded abortion policy..

This week, Democrats introduced a resolution that would change Senate rules for military promotions, bypassing Tuberville’s blockade. If successful, military officers such as Jonsson, whom Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recommended for a promotion to brigadier general in January, would advance without further delay.

The Daily Signal’s previous reporting on Jonsson’s views on diversity, equity, and inclusion—and his endorsement of a book on critical race theory—sparked concerns among conservatives.

The reporting also prompted The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project to request a Defense Department “climate” assessment completed during Jonsson’s leadership of MacDill Air Force Base. As a result of a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the Oversight Project obtained the so-called Defense Organizational Climate Survey and shared it with The Daily Signal, which is Heritage’s news outlet.

Responses to this “climate” survey of Jonsson’s leadership, included below, paint a picture of his tenure and concerns about his views on DEI and CRT. The survey, completed in January 2022, was conducted anonymously.

“I trust [squadron and group] commanders, but not Col. Jonsson. He has bias in [equal opportunity] and [judge advocate] matters especially if someone is white,” one respondent stated. “He wants anyone white to feel ashamed.”

Survey respondents also said skin color was a factor in opportunities for promotion.

“Wing hiring practices are not based on [the] most qualified person, but focus solely on perception of diversity,” one comment states.

Another adds: “The core of promotion, advancement and opportunities must be performance based … period [but] that is not what we do at MacDill.”

The Pentagon’s climate assessment concludes with a recommendation addressing those concerns: “Review the Recognition program/promotions for fairness and equity to ensure it is rooted in merit and achievement (and not other factors like race/gender or personal favorites).”

Army veteran William Thibeau, director of the Claremont Institute’s American Military Project and a critic of “woke” military officers, says he was alarmed by the comments included in the Defense Department’s assessment of Jonsson’s leadership. {snip}


Shortly before becoming commander of the 6th Air Refueling Wing at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Jonsson wrote an 825-word commentary published in the Air Force Times on July 1, 2020. In it, he recounted several examples of what he described as “white defensiveness” in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death the previous May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

“Dear white colonel, it is time to give a damn. Aim High,” Jonsson wrote, adding:

As white colonels, you and I are the biggest barriers to change if we do not personally address racial injustice in our Air Force. Defensiveness is a predictable response by white people to any discussion of racial injustice. White colonels are no exception. We are largely blind to institutional racism, and we take offense to any suggestion that our system advantaged us at the expense of others.

Jonsson included an endorsement of critical race theory promoter Robin DiAngelo’s controversial book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.”

One survey respondent writes: “If you are white and read this book, you cannot walk away without the interpretation [that] Col. Jonsson wants you to know he sees all white people as racist.”

Thibeau said the survey responses reveal that DEI was a defining aspect of Jonsson’s leadership, and a bigger problem with a politicized military.


The Defense Department survey “provides valuable information about members’ perceptions of the organization’s climate,” according to the 139 pages of documents obtained by Heritage’s Oversight Project.

The climate assessment includes both a quantitative survey and substantive written comments.


Those comments include critical responses to Jonsson’s embrace of both the DEI agenda and DiAngelo’s book on critical race theory. They represent just a fraction of the 249 total comments submitted but reveal strong concerns within the ranks.

And although not all the comments are critical of Jonsson’s leadership, several subordinates cite his Air Force Times commentary as problematic or referenced DEI practices at MacDill. Their unedited responses, printed below, were submitted anonymously for the survey.

I feel everything in this wing has a political bend to it. Sorry to say, but you can’t author an article ‘Dear White Colonels’ and then operate in the way in which we do and not lose people because they do not support your politics, which you are openly embracing. It’s highly disheartening.


D&I. Our base has a real blind spot in this area and command should be concerned. The Wg/CC [wing commander] pushes diversity at all cost to the level that performance and merit are not the primary markers for advancement or selection for opportunities. He has encouraged the reading of ‘White Fragility’ and his front office and many of his Gp CC’s [group captains/commanders] got more diverse front offices in short order. The core of promotion, advancement and opportunities must be performance based … period … that is not what we do at MacDill. Pushing repeatedly to give certain populations of people ‘second or extra looks’ to include Gp [group] manning diversity panels and extra pause in UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] matters that doesn’t include all personnel is coercion to [a] desired outcome. I can tell you I don’t feel included on this team because my skin color is not what this wing values.

I trust Sq/Gp [squadron/group] commanders, but not Col. Jonsson. He has bias in EO and JA matters especially if someone is white. He seeks to provide justice to anyone black, and works to create bias to support. The color of someone’s skin is more important than the qualifications/diversity of thought of the individual. He wants anyone white to feel ashamed, and he makes the SOD very uncomfortable with an accusatory tone to commanders having never identified what exactly it is that commanders at MacDill have done wrong.


People are afraid of the wing’s intentions when it comes to fairness/justice for all airmen. It is abundantly clear Col. Jonsson wants to help primarily black airmen, whether its the 7 criteria, or EO/JA issues—and he will micromanage every detail with the commander, JA, and EO to help a black airman. Do you know how the other ethnic or white airmen percieve this? How your commanders perceive this? Do you persue white offenders more critically than others whether it ‘s EO or JA? Do you give black airmen more opportunites for positions, interviews, JA recovery, EO top cover, jobs? Is that discrimination? Is it racism? It’s definitely bias.


Squadron commanders are undercut by group commanders due to fear of optics when Airmen need reprimanded/punished. Unnecessary, redundant diversity/equity/inclusiveness initiatives are implemented by group command although they are already codified in Air Force doctrine and Core Values. I am not trusted to train, develop, and promote my Airmen on my terms without group leadership’s approval.


Asked to rate the “current level of morale in your unit or organization,” 83% of respondents said they considered it low or moderate.