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DoD Officials Move to Halt Extremist Activities

By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 1996 – DoD is redefining its policy toward extremist activities by service members.

Speaking before a House panel on extremism in the military, DoD Personnel and Readiness Chief Edwin Dorn said the Pentagon is taking steps to halt U.S. forces' participation in extremist groups. He defended the U.S. military as the finest in the world, but added there are some in the ranks who take part in extremist activities.

"Those who participate in racist or other extremist activities are a minuscule portion of the force, but even a small number is too many," said Dorn. "We want them out of the force altogether."

Current DoD policy directs military personnel to reject participation in organizations that espouse supremacist causes or illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion or national origin. They must also avoid groups that advocate use of force or other tactics in an effort to deprive people of their civil rights.

"The revised directive will make clear that military personnel should not do anything to further the objectives of an organization whose activities threaten the good order and discipline of a military unit," said Dorn. He also said the revised policy will not attempt to list all prohibited activities or groups. Rather, it will place unit commanders in a position to decide if the activity affects the unit's good order and discipline.

These coming changes result from a three-month Army investigation last winter following the murder of two persons in Fayetteville, N.C. Local police charged three Fort Bragg, N.C., troops with the crime and found neo-Nazi materials and other extremist literature in a trailer the three rented near Bragg.

The Army investigation concluded there are no widespread or organized extremist activities in the service. Officials said, however, they are revising current regulations governing involvement in extremist organizations.

Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr. said the Army is expanding its equal opportunity program to include training against extremism. He also ordered comprehensive guidelines governing quality of life initiatives -- specifically for single soldiers living in military dormitories.

Those policy revisions are also affecting DoD policy for all services. Dorn said DoD is working on several changes, such as clarifying to all service members -- active duty, Reserve and National Guard -- that there is no room for extremism in the military.

Standard training for all services is another change. Dorn said all services offer training on extremism, but the type, length and frequency varied from service to service.

"Training is important because the military services are ever-changing," said Dorn. "Each year, we recruit about 200,000 young men and women into the active force -- another 150,000 into the reserves. From Day 1, the services must teach these recruits the military's core beliefs. One such core belief is that equal opportunity is a military necessity."

DoD is also attempting to improve the way it monitors and reports extremist activities. Dorn said the Pentagon is developing a program to standardize how the services report criminal incidents. This would include crimes motivated by race and religion.

Dorn said DoD also will conduct periodic race relations surveys. He said DoD will administer a survey this fall, with results ready by next spring. "I believe it will be useful to do a DoD-wide climate assessment every couple of years," said Dorn, "[or] as often as needed to detect trends."

Finally, Dorn stressed the importance of leadership. He quoted from "An Assessment of Racial Discrimination in the Military: A Global Perspective," a report issued by U.S. Rep. Ronald Dellums: "What military leaders say and do -- the command climate they establish -- is very important, perhaps more important than the formal rules and reports."

Dorn said those words are a useful lesson for those in leadership positions when it comes to battling extremism. "We should be mindful of the impression we create when we talk about racial issues," he said. "We should use our moral and mental energies to promote racial justice. We should use our positions of leadership to foster racial reconciliation and not fan the embers of racial resentment."

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