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Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Friday signed a memo ordering several "immediate actions" to weed out extremism in the ranks.

Driving the news: The memo comes after Austin in February ordered commanding officers to hold a "stand down" to discuss extremism among the armed forces. The issue gained heightened attention after multiple service members and veterans were arrested for their alleged actions in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol siege.

What he's saying: "The vast majority of those who serve in uniform and their civilian colleagues do so with great honor and integrity, but any extremist behavior in the force can have an outsized impact," Austin wrote in his memo Friday.

Details: The steps outlined by Austin include...

  • Reviewing and updating the department's definition of extremism "to more specifically define what constitutes extremist behavior."
  • Updating service member transition checklists to include "training on potential targeting of service members by extremist groups and work with other federal departments agencies to create a mechanism by which veterans have the opportunity to report any potential contact with an extremist group should they chose to do so."
  • Reviewing and standardizing screening questionnaires "to solicit specific information about current or previous extremist behavior."
  • Commissioning a study "on extremist behavior within our Total Force, to include gaining greater fidelity on the scope of the problem."

Austin also said the Defense Department has created a "countering extremism working group" that will oversee the implementation of the actions outlined in his order.

  • The group must submit a report no later than 90 days after its first meeting on April 14.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the fact the Lloyd Austin is the Secretary of Defense.

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Credit: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

1 hour ago - World

Zelensky questions U.S. warnings of "imminent" invasion in Biden call

Biden and Zelensky at the White House last October. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a back-and-forth in their call this evening about just how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be, according to three sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Biden has said previously that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably "move in" to Ukraine, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that "an invasion could come at any time."

Democrats stiff Biden as poll numbers hit low point

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Democrats in swing states and vulnerable districts in this year's pivotal midterms are distancing themselves from President Biden on social media as his poll numbers hit their lowest point.

Why it matters: The digital distance is one sign of the concern candidates feel about a person they'd normally embrace. Incumbent presidents — including one who believes he needs to come to their hometowns to sell his message — would normally be political gold for candidates from the same party.

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