Pentagon Makes New Push to Root Out Extremism Among U.S. Troops

The Pentagon announced plans Friday to crack down on extremism in the ranks with new regulations, screening and training after troops and veterans participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a working group to rewrite the definition of prohibited extremist activity in the military, update questionnaires on past activity for new recruits and train troops leaving the service about interest from extremist groups. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters some groups seek out the combat skills of veterans.

“The number of the people in the force who espouse this ideology is small,” Kirby said. “Even though the number is small it can have a corrosive effect.”

In February, Austin ordered the military services to conduct a mandatory day of extremism training within 60 days, and that’s been completed, Kirby said.

Now, the Pentagon working group has 90 days to create additional midterm and longterm plans for reining in extremism, which has emerged as a top concern for Austin following the Capitol attack.

The additional work will include looking at military criminal justice reforms and the potential for using computer programs and algorithms to monitor social media activity.

An October Defense Department report written under the Trump administration pointed to an inadequate definition of extremism in military regulations as a stumbling block in dealing with such behavior. The Pentagon had also said in that earlier report that it was reluctant to expand screening of social media for extremism as part of its recruiting process.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.