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Senate committee calls on Pentagon to halt anti-extremism efforts ‘immediately’

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III during a virtual meeting with 26 different military and veteran service organizations the Pentagon, May 5, 2021 (DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley)
July 20, 2022

The Senate Armed Service Committee called on the Defense Department this week to “immediately” stop all programs that aim to combat so-called extremism in the U.S. military, criticizing the efforts as a waste of taxpayer funds.

In a report accompanying the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the committee wrote that “the vast majority of servicemembers serve with honor and distinction, and that the narrative surrounding systemic extremism in the military besmirches the men and women in uniform.”

“The committee believes that when extremist activity does in fact occur that it must be dealt with swiftly and appropriately; however, the case incident rate does not warrant a Department-wide effort on the issue,” the report continued. “In light of the findings by Secretary Austin’s [Countering Extremist Activity Working Group] CEAWG, the committee believes that spending additional time and resources to combat exceptionally rare instances of extremism in the military is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds and should be discontinued by the Department of Defense immediately.”

The committee highlighted the Biden administration’s focus on extremism in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol breach and the creation of CEAWG to “oversee the implementation of the immediate actions and formation of additional and long-term recommendations to address perceived extremism in the ranks.”

The report noted that between April and December 2021, CEAWG found that “the available data generally shows that cases of prohibited extremist activity among service members was rare.”

With just 100 cases in a force of 2.1 million active and reserve troops, CEAWG revealed the case rate of .005 percent, or one servicemember out of every 21,000.

According to a Jan. 2, 2022 letter from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, over 5.3 million hours were spent fighting alleged extremism in the ranks. The letter explained that over $500,000 was spent on the effort, not including the report CEAWG created.

The committee approved the language in the report by a vote of 14-12, according to The Hill.

Last year, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called on troops throughout the U.S. military to report extremism they see in the ranks and share any ideas they have to “stamp out” the issue.

“We need your help,” Austin said. “Im talking, of course, about extremism and extremist ideology. Views and conduct that run counter to everything that we believe in, and which can actually tear at the fabric of who we are as an institution.”

Meanwhile, a U.S. Navy official told American Military News that the service is prepared to take administrative or judicial action against members who intentionally “misuse” transgender service members’ pronouns because they are in violation of the Navy’s harassment policy.