Mar 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Pentagon report: Domestic extremists pose serious threat to military

Photo of a man in military gear raising his arm

Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol in tactical gear. Photo: Samuel Corum via Getty Images

Domestic extremists pose a serious threat to the military by attempting to recruit service members into their movement, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday.

Why it matters: Domestic extremism in the military has become a growing concern in recent years, the report notes. It blew into a bigger issue after the Justice Department charged several former and current military members for their involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, which the FBI classified as domestic terrorism.

What they're saying: "Military members are highly prized by these groups as they bring legitimacy to their causes and enhance their ability to carry out attacks," said the report, which was prepared last year at Congress' request.

  • "In addition to potential violence, white supremacy and white nationalism pose a threat to the good order and discipline within the military."
  • The report listed examples of service members with extremist ties but did not offer a number on how many current and former military members ascribe to white supremacist ideologies.
  • Far-right extremists often used the app Telegram, for example, to share U.S. military manuals.
  • In another online forum, a reported service member commented that there are "plenty of our kind" in combat arms and that people identify fellow members by wearing a shirt "with some obscure fascist logo."
  • The report noted that some military members actually founded entire neo-Nazi movements.

The big picture: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed a memo in early February ordering commanding officers and supervisors to hold a one-day "stand-down" to discuss extremism in the military.

  • "We will not tolerate actions that go against the fundamental principles of the oath we share, including actions associated with extremist or dissident ideologies," he wrote.
  • "Service members, DoD civilian employees, and all those who support our mission, deserve an environment free of discrimination, hate, and harassment."
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