Feb 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Defense Secretary Austin orders military "stand down" to address extremism

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Capitol on Feb. 3.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Capitol on Feb. 3. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has signed a memo ordering commanding officers and supervisors to hold a one-day "stand-down" to discuss extremism within the armed forces in the next 60 days, the Department of Defense announced Friday.

Why it matters: After multiple current service members and veterans were arrested for their actions during the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol siege, the Pentagon has increased efforts to combat white supremacy and other forms of extremism in its ranks, according to the New York Times.

What they're saying: "This stand-down is just the first initiative of what I believe must be a concerted effort to better educate ourselves and our people about the scope of this problem and to develop sustainable ways to eliminate the corrosive effects that extremist ideology and conduct have on the workforce," Austin, the first Black man to lead the Pentagon, said in the memo.

  • "We will not tolerate actions that go against the fundamental principles of the oath we share, including actions associated with extremist or dissident ideologies. Service members, DoD civilian employees, and all those who support our mission, deserve an environment free of discrimination, hate, and harassment."
  • "We owe it to the oath we each took and the trust the American people have in our institution."

Between the lines: It is unclear whether the stand down announcement was largely meant to be a symbolic move, or if the Pentagon is planning concrete steps to deal with extremism within the armed forces.

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