April 12, 2024

How DOD missed its opportunity to counter extremism in the ranks

Has the threat of extremism in the ranks fallen off the Department of Defense’s radar? The department’s fiscal 2025 budget request suggests it has.

In stark contrast to the FY2022 request — which dedicated an entire section to the subject — the FY2025 budget mentions extremism in the ranks only once, alongside other personnel issues such as discrimination and sexual harassment.

However, the threat of extremism cannot be shelved as just another personnel issue. As extremism in the ranks continues to rear its head, we must resuscitate calls for an Office for Countering Extremism within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense.

Enlisting deradicalized extremists — especially those with military backgrounds — to speak about their radicalization process and recruitment paints a far richer picture of the lure of extremism than scripted DOD warnings to veterans.

Since Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s February 2021 stand-down, DOD made strides in countering extremism in the ranks. Updated pre-enlistment screening questionnaires inquire about applicants’ membership in racist organizations and previous participation in violent acts.

The 2021 revision of DOD Instruction 1325.06 clarified the scope of “active participation” and what might qualify as “extremist activities.” The DOD Pre-Separation Counseling Resource Guide now also includes specific guidance on helping veterans guard against extremist organizations’ recruitment attempts.

Still, the challenge of extremism in the ranks endures. As evidenced by a November 2023 report published by the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General, DOD investigated 183 distinct allegations of extremist activity among military personnel that year, 108 of which necessitated a full investigation.

Read the full article from Military Times.

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