After more than a year, the Defense Department has finally released a report on extremism within its ranks. This report, announced in the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, is one of the 4 “immediate actions” declared in response to the uprising. Since then, dozens of current and former military personnel have been accused of crimes related to the events of January 6th.
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More about Report on Internal Extremism
In the beginning of this year, a NewsBuzzr investigation found that the military has made little progress in its efforts to address extremism, with many significant initiatives stalled or incomplete.
One such effort was the “Study on Extremist Activity Within the Total Force.” While the Institute for Defense Analysis completed the study in June 2022, it was never released. In response to new requests for personnel and readiness, the report was provided to NewsBuzzr for the first time on Tuesday.
The 262-page report will be subject to expert report and review in the coming weeks, but it provides some immediate insights into what the analysis found – and what it did not:
Limited New Data on Extremism in the Military
The report does not present much new data on extremism within the military. Instead, it relies on existing data from sources, including the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) database.
Focus on Former Service Members
According to Lloyd Austin’s April 2021 memo, the primary focus of the report was to “gain greater fidelity on the scope of the problem.” It seems that the report does not shed much light on new data within the scope of extremist activities in the military.
Court Martial Decisions on Extremists
The authors of the report searched for court-martial decisions related to extremist activities – identifying 10 cases through Court Martial decisions. However, they acknowledged that court-martial only represents a small portion of extremists, as most cases do not end up in court martial.
Military Involvement in Extremist Activities
The report acknowledges that extremism within the military is rare but dangerous. It states, “Participation by very few individuals in violent extremist activities among military contacts and military trainees can pose a threat to the military and the entire country.”
Security Clearance Process Inadequate
The report criticizes the security clearance process within the military as outdated and inadequate. It suggests that the process focuses too much on domestic extremist threats rather than the risks associated with global conflicts and terrorism.
Public Availability of Extremism Data
Researchers recommended updating and standardizing questions about security and suitability within the military to directly address and gather information on prohibited extremist activities. They suggested that this would help make data on extremism more publicly available.
Increased Approval for Former Service Members
The report notes an increase in approval rates for former service members’ participation. The conclusion is that the military’s security clearance and approval process puts the department at risk of inadvertently allowing individuals with violent extremist behavior into sensitive roles.
All the report does provide some insights into the state of extremism within the military, it seems to fall short of delivering a comprehensive analysis with substantial new data. The challenge now lies in addressing the identified gaps and improving the processes to ensure the safety and security of the military and the nation.