Thursday, March 21, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Subject: Findings and Recommendations on the Task Force on Extremist Activities: Defending American Values
[Note: Also participating in the briefing is Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD/PA]
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. The main topic of the briefing today is the Army's task force on extremist activities report which was commissioned by Secretary West, and he'll conduct the briefing. After that, I have a brief announcement to make on the B-2 and there will be some Air Force officials here to field the questions on that.
Before I begin, I'd like to read a brief statement by Secretary Perry commenting on this report: "Defending American Values, the report of the Secretary of the Army's Task Force on Extremist Activities, concludes that there is minimal evidence of extremist activity in the Army.
Reviews by the other services reach the same conclusion. However, Department of Defense policy leaves no room for racist and extremist activities in the military. We must -- and we will -- make every effort to erase bigotry, racism and extremism from the military. Extremist activity compromises fairness, good order and discipline, and, potentially, combat effectiveness. The armed forces, which defend the nation and its values, must exemplify those values beyond question.
Secretary West has directed the Army to take actions to root out extremist activity. I have asked the Defense Equal Opportunity Council, which is chaired by Deputy Secretary White and includes the service secretaries, to review the report and its recommendations to determine if changes are necessary in Department of Defense policies and regulations. I will act quickly on the Council's recommendations."
And with that, Secretary West.
Secretary West: Good afternoon. I have a few quick comments to make about the report. These charts are not as many or as lengthy as they may first appear to be. And then I'll be available for your questioning which is what I think we're all here for.
Three months ago, December 15th, I announced the establishment of the task force on extremism in the Army, extremist activities. I announced it in the wake of events in Fayetteville, North Carolina, which were a shock to our nation, and which caused us in the Army to decide that we needed to take a look at ourselves. I also announced it because the Secretary of Defense told me to. This is a task force and a review undertaken at the direction of the Secretary of Defense in which he has, as you have just heard, had a great interest.
We named it -- I named it -- Defending American Values for I think obvious reasons. The fact is that the United States Army does not belong to me or to the Secretary of Defense. As proud of we are of them, it does not belong to our soldiers or our NCOs or our officers. It belongs to the American people. And as such, it should espouse the values of the people to whom it belongs. If it does, then it can defend them. That is our job. The task force that was so named and that has been in the field for much of the past three months has now concluded its work and submitted its report to me which I hope you have available to you or will shortly. It makes several conclusions. Let me mention some now and then we'll talk about them again in a minute.
The task force concludes that this Army does indeed exemplify and wholeheartedly support American values. It concludes that extremist activity in and on and touching the United States Army is minimal. It concludes that there has been little in the way of targeting by extremist organizations or groups of U.S. Army soldiers. And it concludes that America can be as confident of its Army today as it has always been in the years past.
Let me tell you a word about who the task force was. They are here with us today.
The Chair was Major General -- still is for that matter -- Major General Larry Jordan, the Deputy Inspector General. General Jordan brings to the job, and brought to the job, not only his role as the Deputy Inspector General, an important one, because it meant that the task force had immediate access to the techniques and the expertise of conducting surveys and investigations worldwide on short notice and because the Army is large with great numbers of people. But, he also brought his experience as the commander or one of our former commanders of -- one of our Army's largest installations in the continental United States, the Armor center at Fort Knox. Also, on the task force, Karen Heath, the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, brought a perspective from outside the Army in two ways. Having served before her time in the Department of Defense on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee where she obtained both expertise and a reputation for knowing the area of Armed Forces personnel and a number of other issues, she was then appointed as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the Manpower and Reserve Affairs Office. We thought she could bring fresh insight to the task force most importantly, a vantage point from outside the Army. But nonetheless, would not need to learn quickly on a short period of time about the Army as someone from outside the Department of Defense might have had to. John McLaurin, a deputy assistant secretary of the Army in our Manpower and Reserve Affairs Office, brought to it both the inside knowledge of what our policies are designed to be being one of principle designers of them in his job, but also his background as a retired Army colonel, a former Army colonel, a former Army lawyer, and brought an understanding of both the complexities of the Department of the Army and DoD policy and also the best ways to advise them if revision is needed. General Dan Doherty, the commanding general of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command, brought to it both his experience as a general officer and the command of the Army's investigators. It meant that this task force did not have to struggle to gain access to information that our investigators had turned up over time or to gain access to civilian law enforcement officials in the communities surrounding our bases. And perhaps the best answer to the question of who do you want to talk to, if you want to know what's happening in your Army, talk to non-commissioned officers. And so, on the panel, the Sergeant Major of the Army, experienced command sergeant major who has held, I guess, every rank there is to hold in the non-commissioned officer ranks. He started as a soldier and he sits here today as a soldier.
That is the who of our panel. We kept the number small because I kept their time limited. We simply did not want to wait a long time before we could answer the question, what's happening in the Army? Is it doing as well as we think? Are there things there going on that we don't know about that we need to have exposed?
Where do they go?
Twenty-six installations of the United States Army here and abroad when we impaneled this task force, I said that they would go both across the continental United States and to locations overseas. Sixteen installations in the continental United States, eight overseas, five in Germany, and three, no, seven in Germany and five sites in Korea. And with that, we touched on just about every pocket of useful information to the Army. Not every pocket of information and not all the useful information we could find, but just about touched on every pocket. You see the installations there. Some of our biggest schools, Fort Benning, Fort Bragg. Well, Fort Bragg is our contingency installation out of which we base the contingency corps. Fort Hood, one of the largest collections of firepower anywhere in the world. Fort Knox, where General Jordan once commanded.
How then did we do this review?
At these installations across America and in Korea and Germany, sensing sessions were held with more than 7,000 officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers. Some 6,000 of them soldiers. Some in meetings and sessions that were mixed as to race and gender. But some yes, in single, in race-single ethic groups so that there would be no hesitancy to speak up. And just to assure that we did not over-manage this effort, 50 percent of all the soldiers interviewed were selected at random. That is by the last four digits of their social security number.
Another 1,600 of essentially brigade- and battalion-level leaders were interviewed also in the course of these sessions to give you a number in excess of 7,000. Parallel, at the same time that these sessions were going on, incidentally and including off-post visits, and by that principally, to make sure that the task force talked with officials -- law enforcement officials -- and others in the communities around the bases where the interviews took place. In parallel with this effort, the Army Research Institute at the direction of the task force, at the request of the task force, also undertook a survey, a written survey across the same group of installations. Some 94 questions concerning the areas in which we had an interest, extremism, the human relations environment, values, EO training, sexual harassment issues, and, of course, hate crimes.
In addition, we sought input from not only other government agencies but also from organizations such as the Weisenthal Center, the ADL, the NAACP, the National Conference of Christians and Jews. You may recall that at one point there was an indication by the North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP that they had wanted to make an input to the installation at Fort Bragg and had not had an opportunity to do so. At my request, the task force simply went directly to that chapter to make sure that the task force had the benefit of their thinking for and any insights they had for this report.
I might also report that Fort Bragg and the Local Chapter are continuing the dialogue to make sure that what has been the harmonious relationship with the community continues to also include an understanding of whatever contribution organizations such as that wish to make as we go forward in these areas. And I would expect that pattern to be consistent across the force.
Thank you. As a result of the impaneling of this group and of these visits and of this pattern of inquiries, the task force report offers us several findings. They are in the report. I will mention only a couple of them, highlight them for you. With respect to the sensing sessions, the interviews, the some 7,000 interviews, the task force finds that less than one percent of those interviewed report extremist, report knowing or coming into contact with extremists in uniform or as family members or as civilians on that post either active, substantially, less than one percent or passive or merely members. Substantially less than one percent.
It also finds that these soldiers report -- less than one percent, but a bit
closer -- report any contacts with media or other paraphernalia or literature of extremist or hate groups. The most often cited, I think you will note from the report, contact with any kind of insignia is the swastika or the initials KKK.
In the parallel survey, in the parallel survey by the ARI, 94 questions submitted to more than 17,000 soldiers. I might emphasize these are at the same installations, but they're not the same soldiers. So, a different group of soldiers, same installations. We get reports -- responses of a different order of magnitude. Some 3.5 percent report in one case. 7.1 in another. I will leave it to you to see those numbers. I will emphasize that what they speak to is whether or not in one case they have ever been approached by organizations to be recruited. This is of some interest to us as we also compare what the civilian authorities, law enforcement authorities outside the post tell us. In both instances, although the numbers are in the survey by ARI are a bit higher, the conclusion the task force draws, and I'm getting ahead of myself, is nonetheless that targeting of our soldiers for recruitment has not occurred. We want to talk a little bit more about why that should be. How it is we can be comfortable with that assumption in addition to the fact that it's what our soldiers tell us.
Those are the findings, the numerical findings, or some of them anyway, the highlights of them, what conclusions did the task force report to me as their commissioning officer that they draw from those numbers and also from their interaction in their numerous sessions, their numerous sensing sessions across those three months? I pause here to say an additional word to you about the complexity of the undertaking. Not every panel member could be in every location. An enormous team, several teams, some four or five essentially structured like the panel but with some additional folks visited these installations, conducted these sensing sessions in a very professional way and have worked very diligently to collate their results. If, as I believe, we ultimately conclude that this was an enormously valuable enterprise and that it results in substantial benefits from the Army -- and I think the evidence is there that it is and it will -- then no small part of the thanks will be both to the panel but also to the teams that under-girded their actions. And out of those discussions, they came up with a number of conclusions. Let me emphasize some of them.
One is the one that I gave you a preview of at the outset. The conclusion that the panel reaches that the task force reaches and reports to me is that extremist activity in around or touching the Army is minimal. Now, we can say it in a lot of different ways, but I give it to you bare bones -- minimal. Minimal means that our soldiers report little of it. Minimal means that there is little evidence of it. Minimal means that law enforcement officials around the base agree with those judgments.
Secondly, I would highlight for you with respect to extremist activities the panel reports that targeting -- and I said this at the outset -- targeting of active duty Army soldiers is simply not happening in any significant way. There may be several reasons for that. But, the justification for the conclusion first, that is what the civilian law enforcement officials reported to the panel. Second, those are the results of the surveys that the panel has done. And thirdly, of the discussions.
Why should that be? Just a brief word, and then I'll go on.
It may well be that our soldiers are simply not good targets. That inoculated with the values of America, believing in what they defend, they are simply not easy prey. It may be that our soldiers are simply too busy. They train everyday. They have important jobs to do. Most of our soldiers, the vast majority, simply don't have the time to go disaffected and to go seeking a family outside the Army which takes up so much of their time, so many hours of the day, so many days of the week, so many weeks of the year.
And the third perhaps most elevated reason may be simply that the soldiers aren't there long enough. They come, maybe they're assigned there for two or three years, and they move on. It may be that if there are such groups out there in significant strength to have a coherent plan of targeting -- I doubt the latter -- But if there are, that the targets would not be folks who when you consider it really are simply not available that often in the community to be targeted.
Thirdly, the task force reports in terms of extremists as its conclusions some `buts.' One other. They also report that our soldiers, in the vast majority, embraced the notion that extremism has no place in military life. That in short, our soldiers embrace the values of our citizens. That extremism has no place in American life. Having said that, what are the `buts?'
The `buts' are yes, they embraced that notion. They are clear on the undesirability of extremism, but they're not so clear, the task force reports, on the Army's attitude about it. That is to say that our regulation, which lawyers can stand and explain with great precision, which draws that line between passive membership and active participation, may be distinctions that don't mean a lot to our soldiers, to our NCOs, and to our officers.
They also report that there is no evidence, other than the messages that the Chief of Staff and I sent out in the aftermath of the Oklahoma bombing, there is no other evidence that the Army has incorporated into its Equal Opportunity training and its training regimen training about extremists. Training that says what does the Army think about extremism. What is its position? What does its regulation say? What are the penalties? What are the hazards?
And the other `but' is that even as we explain the definitions, if we make that change, even as we are able to react to the other challenges, there may be some growing notion that our NCOs are handicapped in their ability to keep an eye out for the kinds of elements on an installation that might lead to a contact or to some other untoward activity, because of our current policies with respect to some enhancements we've made for quality of life in our barracks.
Quickly, I remind you that we also asked the task force to look into the atmosphere on our posts. Even if we are satisfied about our soldiers' values and about who is approaching them, what is there in the human relations atmosphere that is good? That nurtures them, that is working? And what is there that is potentially an opportunity for such views and values -- extremist views, extremist values -- to intrude? And so, we have several conclusions from the task force also in the report about the human relations environment.
I think the most significant one that I would call to your attention now -- and I will be glad to answer questions in a minute -- is a reminder that over 21 percent of our force changes every year in the active force. One-fifth of our Army goes and comes every year. And I will give you roughly a statistic that suggests, and probably another two-fifths at any given point has been on active duty less than four years. That has been an Army -- that has good news and bad news. It is an Army that is very much in touch reflective of the values of society. It is also an Army that still needs some training about how the Army takes those values of society, improves upon them so that we get a higher level of performance for our soldiers. There may be extremism out in America. We simply cannot use it in the Army.
So, the challenge of the 21 percent turnover and also the benefit is one of the reports. The final conclusion that I would call to your attention so that we can move on is a kind of extra-added attraction. If we ask our soldiers in this brief look-see -- this brief investigation of the Army -- well what concerns you the most in this whole area of potential trouble on the borders of our installations or people making inroads into our Army? The answer is gang-related activity near or on our posts. As large a percentage of our soldiers responded on that question as they responded on the extremism question. They said that they are concerned about security concerns and other issues arising from that phenomena. We don't confirm that there's a large presence. The task force doesn't confirm that there's a large presence. Law enforcement authorities don't confirm that there's a large presence, but our soldiers are concerned about it. It is something we need to take into account.
What then have been the recommendations of the task force as a result? There is a list set out right out on the second page of the executive summary which is at the very front of the report. Highlights of it. First of all, they are very much reflective of the conclusions and findings that I just described to you. One recommendation obviously, is that we have to take a better look at the regulation. Another is that we need to look and see how well we are screening, and if screening is possible, screening for extremists upon entry onto active duty. Another is that we look to our equal opportunity training and other training to see about incorporating extremists training or extremists awareness, if you will, into it. And the list extends with several more which I will leave you to read.
What then will we will do about it? I have today directed -- I signed the memoranda this morning -- several actions by the Army immediately. There will be some follow-on reviews as well beyond what we do today. But Secretary Perry's direction to me three months ago was very clear. He said do the review and finish it quickly because we must get on to whatever the lessons are. If there's action to be taken, we must take it. If there are further studies to do, we must do them. So, here are the things we are starting immediately.
First of all, we're going to take a look at revising the Army regulation. There will be lots of discussions about this, I assure you. As a former Department of Defense general counsel, I know what a careful line is drawn in that reg and in the DoD directive. But the fact is, we simply cannot have our soldiers out there clear on their values and unclear on Army values. That is unacceptable.
Secondly, I am directing that we take a look again at the question that was raised. I touched on it briefly by NCOs and officers as we did this survey. Whether or not current Army policies in an effort to improve the quality of life of our soldiers has led to a situation where after hours, if you will, after duty hours, our NCOs and company commanders feel that there is some different signal from us in the leadership as to whether they are expected and have the authority to find out where their soldiers are. To know what their soldiers are doing. To understand how their soldiers are feeling. Are we taking care of them? What kind of conditions are they living in? And also, what are they doing that they don't want us to know about?
The latter is the touchy one. How much of that should we know? The answer is this. Our NCOs and our company grade officers are there to help our soldiers. Many of our soldiers are young, new to responsibility, and expect a structured life. If there are things, if there is counseling, if there are warnings, if there is simply reassurance that our company grade leaders can provide at any time, in the hours of off-duty hours, on the training field or in the barracks, they need to be there to provide it. If we, in the Army, are sending signals that is not expected or that we won't support those leaders when they do that, then we need to correct it.
Just as I am fond of saying that we have some of the finest soldiers in the world, we have some of the finest NCOs. We need to support them in their duties. This is a look-see to see if we are doing a good job of that or if we need to adjust the way in which we are supporting our NCOs and our officers.
And then the third one, to look at the training issue that I raised earlier. Put simply, get extremism training or training about extremism and about the Army's policy and there's been attitudes about extremism, into our training base. I have said it before to different groups. I say it again. You know what the Army thinks is important by looking at what it trains. If extremism isn't in there, we must get it in there right away.
There are going to be two other things that we will undertake right away. Both will require support from the office of the Secretary of Defense, from Dr. Dorn, from the general counsel, from others there who have given us -- with whom we've worked closely in the past. But, they raise the DoD-wide issues and so we will approach them on two questions. One on the question of screening of applicants. One of the recommendations. And maybe I should be clearer about that. The question is, are there ways, in which at our recruiting places or our in-processing stations, we can better inform ourselves as to whether we're bringing in an extremist, whether there is something we should know that we should be screening out?
Again, I think that would be a very touchy examination. It raises the question of what things you can inquire into of a person who before they sign up is a private citizen, what conditions you can erect for recruitment. We will need to work that out with Dr. Dorn because this will effect policies across the Department of Defense.
Secondly, we will also discuss questions of equal opportunity training, race relations training, as it can be as it is guided in OSD and as it can be helpful to us.
I would say, that if there's a lesson or a message to draw from all this, it is that our soldiers yes, are relatively untouched by extremism; but that we are on guard not to relax. There was some comment from some of the seminar respondents from the senior officers that maybe we in the Army are so proud of what we've done over the last 20 or 25 years since the early seventies, late sixties, about the human relations atmosphere in our Army that we think it's doing well, almost running on automatic.
I hesitate to endorse that notion. I don't think any of our senior officers or junior officers or NCOs are running on automatic. But I am willing to accept the warning that we need to continually reassess ourselves. There are probably two basic elements to the kind of success we want in our Army. First-rate soldiers, and careful monitoring of what we're doing to support them. We've got those two elements. I think we're all right. We've got the-first rate soldiers. The best in the world. We are reminded by this report that we must continue to introduce the other element, a continual reassessment, a re-look at our equal opportunity policies and all the things that go with it. If we do those well, we'll be all right in the end. Today's challenges will be remarked upon tomorrow as tomorrow's successes. With that, I'm available for your questions. Thank you.
Q: Mr. Secretary, have you decided or do you have any timetable on when you'll come up with a decision on whether you might prohibit participation in the extremist organization? How you might change these training and recruiting rules?
A: No, only as soon as possible. I have not set a time.
Q: The report says that most soldiers believe that any association with an extremist organization should be grounds for separation from the Army. Why not simplify it in that way and eliminate the distinction between passive and active participation? Just say any association and you're out. Why not do that?
A: The first amendment. What has, I think, motivated our lawyers in the past have been the first amendment considerations, the process of drawing the current regulation based on the current DoD directive. As Judy Miller, the current general counsel of DoD, described to me just two days ago, it's painful and quite difficult. We have competing interests on both sides. We have sensed that even soldiers, regimented and uniformed as they are, still have some basic entitlements and the competing notion that says, for purposes of maintaining good order and discipline in our units, so that they can perform their missions, we can go very far indeed in what we proscribe.
That competition is what has resulted in the current Army Regulation. I do not say that our lawyers and personnel specialists won't come up with a way to do just what you said and just what the soldiers say. But I do say in answer to your question why might it not happen because we have to balance those two things.
Nonetheless, we are going to look at this very carefully, and my directions are there must be something better we can do with our regulation. We must be able to say more clearly what our idea is. What we prohibit. What we don't like. What is antithetical and we can certainly do that, whatever the conclusion, on just how much you can prohibit. I'm going to go to the back. Yes?
Q: Mr. Secretary, the leadership at Fort Bragg has said that they were surprised on December 7th about the incident, the alleged murder beyond Fayetteville, but they didn't think they had a problem. But in your own report, you said that on April 1st of 1995 there was a similar incident involving a shooting between skinheads and another group on post. Could you explain why the leadership didn't take note of that? And also, do you think that these types of crimes need to be more openly reported to the public as well as to the base officials?
A: Let me say something about the second, and then I'll go onto the first one. I'm not sure about exactly how `openly reported' would mean. Maybe a report that we regularly published that anyone could get or something like that. And I suspect there are some procedures for making the report of crimes available. That would -- that I would need to know more about. But I would suspect that there are procedures. Reporting, though, of hate crimes even within the Army, is one of the aspects that I think you may have noticed the task force brings up. It's not that well done. In fact, there are some recommendations that say we need to do a better job of getting those reports into a reporting system that identifies them as such. I get serious incident reports everyday. They do not identify so-called hate crimes as hate crimes. So, we need to do a better job of even reporting them to ourselves. We probably need to a better job, as I understand from the task force recommendations, of getting whatever information the civilian law enforcement agencies have to the very company leaders and others who've got to know about their soldiers. And yes, I would suspect that works both ways. That we also can make sure that civilian law enforcement agencies know about what we do.
One other thing I'd say, but probably, if I recall, was it an incident first dealt with by the civilian authorities and then passed to us on our installation? The first question was how did I explain the failure to --
Q: The failure to --
A: To take into account the indication. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on specific incidents at Fort Bragg today. I think I can talk about that a long time. My job here is to talk about what we found across the Army. I do think this: I don't believe, and the report that the task force made to me -- and part of their charter was to look for me into the underpinnings of the incidents down at Fort Bragg -- that they have reported to me a failure, willfully or negligently, on the part of commanders and NCOs there to heed whatever signs were available to them.
And so, my confidence in the way they have conducted themselves on the basis of this report remains firm. I think the confidence of the American people can remain firm as well. Now, one other thing I want to say about that. That installation has been the focus of a lot of attention, and maybe that's appropriate. When things happen in a place that troubles us, we all want to pay attention. But I do believe that the command and the NCOs there continue to benefit from something that we should remind ourselves of. First of all, as I said, the task force in what they reported to me gives me no cause to fault their leadership. The only cause for all of us in the Army is to look better, to how we can prevent any kind of extremism from taking hold. Extremism that the task force says is not taking hold yet. I don't say that we, the Army, can't learn. But no cause to fault their leadership. On the contrary. They are part of the one of America's, of several of America's proudest units. They have served this country over and over again, and they are committed to do so before anyone else whenever the call comes. Okay. You, sir.
Q: There are two separate figures you're working with here. One from the task force and one from the Army's Research Institute. The ARI finds that you have between 3 and 4 percent of the soldiers who have been approached or recruited by the groups. Isn't that a fairly large figure? And isn't that probably the more acceptable figure based on confidential surveys rather than the face-to-face interviews?
A: I think the task force fairly admirably -- does an admirable job in this report of actually showing where their weakness is and where there are strengths in the numbers. And they write, if I'm not mistaken, a little something about that in their report. They say, in fact, they're more inclined to rely on the interviews than they are on the survey, if you have to choose one or the other. My own view is I don't choose one or the other. I take them both as messages about the things we need to be concerned with. I accept any of the numbers as an indication of areas where we need to look again. But I do accept the task force's conclusion from all of the evidence that extremism is minimal and that efforts to recruit are not there, are not organized, and not persistent.
How then, do I justify those differences and distinctions? I do it the way the task force refers to in the report. They point out, for example, that yes, anonymous answers with no fear of retribution should be presumptively somewhat more reliable. That makes the ARI better or more acceptable or more useful perhaps than interviews. On the other hand, you can't talk to the people who, the 17,000 people who did it. They filled out their reports. They left. You can't be sure what their definitions of extremists were. You do know that when we had a chance to talk to those who were in the sensing sessions and who had clear indications, explanations to what we meant by extremism before they started answering questions, still responded with their own notions of extremism.
There are some examples there. I will mention some that the task force mentioned to me. Some church organizations. A couple of political parties. I mean, all kinds of ideas about extremism. So, we have to be careful in our assessments, and I'm inclined to rely on the task force's belief that because it was able to talk more extensively, in fact, talk at all -- with soldiers who they interviewed, that their reliance on those -- their decision to rely on the survey on the interviews is properly placed.
Nonetheless, they are still all warnings to us. Yes? You have a follow-up?
Q: But, if I'm an extremist or my friends are extremists, can I be expected to admit that in a face-to-face interview with an investigator from your task force?
A: No, and the task force raises that too in its report. It says that there may have been reluctance in seminar -- in the sensing sessions, discussions to get up and say I'm one. They also point out though some other things. There are inherent difficulties in this data. One of them is, the sense that our panelists and our team gained, that often when they gathered at the end of the day and discussed the results, they would find out that the few in a certain sample who actually did report a contact with an extremist group or someone who is an extremist were often reporting about the same limited number. And so, there may be double counting. There shouldn't be double counting in the seminars. They took that in the sensing sessions, they took that into account. But we don't know how much double counting there would be in surveys.
Nonetheless, I agree with you. We cannot discount the significance of the surveys. They provide us important indicators. But no, I do not extrapolate from those numbers and suddenly say that there's a large number across the Army being recruited, being approached, in contrast to the very conclusions that my task force reached which is that there is not.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the report also highlights the fact that there's a dramatic decrease in the number of minorities in some of your combat arms units, especially Special Forces. Why is that?
A: I don't know. We too have begun to focus on that. It's one of the issues I meant to mention when I talked about it. And yes, -- no, it's not worrisome but yes, it is something for us to note. Twenty-five years, 26 years ago, when I was on active duty, many civil rights organizations across America were pointing out what they regarded as the imbalance of minority soldiers in the combat arms with very few in the combat support or combat service support arms. They raised the notion that somehow these soldiers who were serving in the combat units would be the first to be wounded, to die. If you ask me to speculate, I would say that some of the mechanisms we put in place back then which have continued to operate in an effort to avoid having any part of the service become a ghetto, they have continued to result inexplicably in growing incentives for minorities and others to go into the non-combat arm units. I don't know that. We will take a look at it.
Another possibility, combat arms and combat support -- combat support and combat service support are often the MOSs that are most translatable into careers outside the Army if you do not intend to pursue them. We do not know what incentives may exist for one group to decide, I'm here briefly, and will pursue a career outside, or to say, I want to be here throughout the combat arms. And I note that even before we make generalizations on that, that there are plenty of senior leadership roles in the combat support, combat service support areas for all soldiers.
I do know that our concern would be this and I said it already. We will not have any part of our service develop into a ghetto, whether it's an inclusive one or an exclusive one. Our concern is not with the service of those units. They have performed magnificently. But we know that they will and can perform magnificently with all of our soldiers playing a role in them whatever their ethnic background. Right here. I'm sorry. Did you have a follow-up?
Q: I did.
A: Go ahead.
Q: I had a question.
A: Let me just do him and then I'll come do you.
Q: Mr. Secretary, as you know that a growing concern to the soldiers themselves is the problem of gangs and gang-related violence. Yet, this report nor your recommendations seem to address that problem at all. What do you intend to do about that?
A: Well, first of all, we're alert to it and CID is alert to it as well. Part of our look-see at how we do our quality of life efforts are also likely to be a reminder that we need to look at who goes on and off our posts altogether in a larger sense. I think you know the stories or you could know the stories that NCOs can tell to you. Sometimes when they talk to me and they say there was a time when I could go to name a location on post, and if I didn't know everybody there, there was something wrong. I need to get that person to his or her unit. Now, that is less common now. I don't know that necessarily leads us to conclude that there is some sort of breakdown in law and order. It's a concern. We will look at it. But you're right. It's not one of the immediate things I've announced today, but we're not ignoring any of the recommendations.
Q: Are there any posts that have been opened?
A: [Unintelligible] You had a follow-up.
Q: I'd like to get back to Special Forces for a minute. On page 8 it talks about senior commanders who think they're being targeted by the militia for recruiting. Have you looked into that or will you?
A: You catch me on that unawares. I don't recall reading a line in there that says -- what line are you reading from? No, just tell me the page.
Q: Page eight. "Overall little active recruiting by soldiers by extremist organizations is evident. The possible exception could be Special Operations Forces, which some senior commanders believe are targeted by the militia movement."
A: I thought you meant the senior commanders were being targeted. You mean the possible exception is that senior commanders believe Special Operations Forces could be targeted. It's a possibility that's raised. We may have to take a look at it. But, there's no -- there's no hard evidence here. What they say here is no targeting. One possible exception, and the reason would be, the possible reason that some of our special operations units remain located in a particular case. We don't know that. It's a subset that we did not explore carefully and so they have to leave the exception. I would say at Fort Bragg, for example, there were some Special Forces people in the sensing sessions. But by and large, we didn't get to spend a lot of time with the Special Forces.
This reminds us -- there's a little pin in it -- that says if there is something we may look at another time, that may be it. I don't think they meant to raise the likelihood or to suggest that, in fact, it was occurring. But you're right. It's raised. Do you have a follow-up on that? You don't seem convinced by my response. [Laughter]
Q: Well, if it's raised, and these are units that have particularly dangerous skills, wouldn't you want to pursue it right away to see if it's true or not?
A: We would want to pursue it, but we're not ready to announce it.
Q: What will it take you to get ready?
A: Well, I think that we -- to get ready to announce it?
Q: Well, what's the obstacle of going ahead now?
A: There is no obstacle. We're just going to take it in our own time. The point is this: These are units as to which, at the moment, we don't have any reason to be concerned. The task force says you might want to take a look at that. It also says you might want to take a look at civilian employees. It also says you might want to take a look at reserves. We will look and see to that. Why am I not ready to announce it? Because I don't want to set off a round of when do you start and where are you going. We're going to take a look at what the next results -- next reviews have to be. We're still swallowing this one. So, we're not trying to avoid it. We've got a list of -- I gave you a list of three. Reserves, civilian employees, Special Forces.
Q: Can you walk us through --
A: Let me do him, first. He's --
Q: Mr. Secretary, since we're in a room of recruiters for the Army instead of us media and you knew they were going back out to their offices across the country tomorrow, what would you or what will you like to say to us as they go back to their duties as sort of a message as to what to look for?
A: You mean, a message in terms of how to help us keep extremists out of the Army? Remember keeping extremists out of the Army is not a big problem. The results of this task force are they're not coming in. That's what the task force just reported. The presence, the contacts are below one percent. The recruitment efforts are below one percent. So whether or not I want to send them out tomorrow prepared to ask them questions from a prohibited list of organizations, which actually I'm prohibited from doing by executive order, or to bore in on that, no, I'm not.
When we undertake that, we need to know exactly what our best advice is and what our best take is. So tomorrow, I tell them to go out and do their jobs as they have, but know that we are looking at whether there's anything more that can be done, the screening. I can't give them a list of characteristics. We went down that road before in the history of this country and it didn't work. So, let's do this one the right way. Here.
Q: The same question applies when you are talking to a room full of your senior NCOs. They hear that you had a big study. They hear some fairly bureaucratic language being put forth. They still want to know if I walk into a soldier's room and he's wearing a swastika, is that grounds for something? If he keeps it in his shirt, is that OK? If he's getting mail from the Ku Klux Klan, is that all right as long as he doesn't wear his sheets around on the post? Where are you -- help us to draw the line of how you think the Army will be different a year from now than it was before December when these hate crimes bubbled to the surface.
A: Well, let me say the Army's not going to be different. We hope it won't be different. The Army is in good shape. The task force has just reported and this must be the fifth time now, --
A: No, no, no. Let me -- hear me out.
Q: We've heard your --
A: The task force has just -- it's not my message. The message that those people see it over there. The task force has just reported minimal extremist involvement, minimal extremist efforts to recruit, a widespread belief by all of our soldiers that extremism is incompatible with military service. Don't want a different Army tomorrow. I want the Army we have today. If there's any message that I ask you to take from this: I want tomorrow, the Army we have today.
Now, message to the NCOs, bereft of bureaucratic trappings, it is this: If there is a silver bullet in all this, if there's a magic way to solve it and I don't think there is, a silver bullet or a magic way, it must be involved in two or three things. A sort of a tri-part type silver bullet. First, there is a firm believe on the part of our task force -- and I say this with the sergeant major of the Army looking on -- that our NCOs and our company grade officers have the authority and the ability right now to deal with much of this -- whatever this is. Remember, we're doing all right now. But they have the ability to know what their soldiers are doing, and we encourage them to take advantage of that opportunity.
That's my message. Know where your soldiers are. Put your arms around them. Put your arms around their families. Do not be dissuaded from going in and knocking on the door of a barracks and going in whether that barracks is a bay or looks like a dormitory room. They have a right to be there and I, for one, will support them when they go there.
And incidentally, if they see a swastika or something hanging on the wall, the bright line test you wanted me, I saw today in an article where a law professor said well, the Army doesn't have the authority to take banners off the wall. They'll have to take them all off except for Old Glory or leave them up.
That's not the Army's view. That is not the Secretary of the Army's direction. If a commander or an NCO sees on the wall of any government building, an item, an object, a display, that is calculated to disrupt the good order, discipline, moral cohesiveness, ability to operate as a unit of that unit, he or she has all the authority necessary to take it down and to discipline the soldier who sponsors it.
Q: Can I follow that?
A: Yes, ma'am.
Q: Given the fact that the officers certainly have the authority to take down such paraphernalia, what will be the response to the NAACP's charge in their report, that even after your meeting with the North Carolina Chapter that five soldiers at Fort Bragg got together for a photo session where swastika and hate flags were displayed. It's certainly if the NAACP was aware of this occurrence, then I would imagine the commanding officer at Fort Bragg should have known as well.
A: First of all, let me underscore the assumption that's there which is, you're right. That's contrary to our regulations. It's contrary to what we tolerate. It's contrary to what we expect our officers and NCOs to tolerate and then I'll have to add the caveat -- assuming that it happened. But I take that. Let's accept a hypothetical.
I think, secondly, that is hard for me here to know what my officers and NCOs there are faced with. I don't know how quickly they're able to get to the scene when it's reported, and I don't know what's there when they get there. I don't know what additional things they have to do after the fact. I do know this. It is not surprising to find out that once there's been a disclosure of this -- which is one of the other things I've seen reported -- that yes, we do go and try to correct it. The fact is once they know about, they have an obligation to act. Beyond that, I cannot explain that, other than to say I'm inclined to believe that the commanders there and the NCOs are proceeding correctly. This may have happened without their knowledge until it was called to their attention. I've had several different groups explain to me how the dynamics work. If you get there and you don't see it, what do you do after you come in?
One of the reasons that I gave this answer about NCOs is that I don't think our problem -- if there is a problem -- remember what you've heard me say so many times already, the task force did not conclude that there was a problem. The task force concluded we've got to be very careful that we don't let a problem start. OK. But if there is a problem, I would not think it is with getting commanders and NCOs to act. I think it is with making sure that they know what's going on. That involves getting into the barracks. It involves not having to wait until it's reported to you. Finding it yourself. That's the best answer I can give you because I think it defines both what we think of our standards and also what may be the things that they are wrestling with. Yes, go ahead.
Q: What then is the Army doing to ensure that commanding officers and NCOs are in the barracks and seem to know what's going on?
A: Well, we're sending out the message today and we will continue to send it out. The chief of staff is going to take notice of it. One reason for having the Sergeant Major of the Army on the panel is that we can act fairly quickly based on what we understand. A lot of it is simply make sure that sergeants understand that we didn't send a different signal when we started all of our innovations for quality of life. Now, I don't want to overemphasize that, because than I suddenly start a look-see of quality of life and maybe we loose some of the advantages that soldiers are getting. I don't mean to do that. I intend for our soldiers to have the benefits of the quality of life improvements we've made. But it may be that we almost warned the sergeants off. I don't think that's the case. But, the task force raises the possibility and so, we'll go in and try to make clear to those, not try to, we will make clear to those sergeants and the company officers not only what their duties are, but that we will support them in doing those duties.
Q: Mr. Secretary, will this --
A: Let me get right here and then I'll come to you.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the task force -- I'm not a lawyer -- but I think reading it they seem to indicate they'd like some sort of a hate crimes law in the military. There is none in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But that's not among your recommendations. Why is that?
A: Well, it's not because it's not clear that we need one in the UCMJ. We are looking to -- we are going to take a look with our lawyers. It's not up here. But then I haven't put everything up here. I put only the most immediate things to be announced today. There are actually going to be some more follow-up, some more things we're going to do as a result of this task force. Three little steps or five little steps is not nearly enough when we put this much effort into getting the report.
But, you're right. We did take note of that. We took note of several things. They recommended that we turn our regulation on extremist activities into a punitive one. That is, we put in a punitive clause that you could act on and this has the same affect. We note that. That will be part of the review. I am a lawyer and my instinct is that's another one that they'll have to work on a bit. There's some things I know we can do to our regulation fairly quickly to get the message out and to make it clear about what the Army's position on extremism is. Make it clearer. Some things are going to be a little more difficult to work. But, yes, they made the recommendation. There was --
Q: You had your single soldiers initiative designed to make quality of life better for soldiers, to make their barracks life a little more private, a little more comfortable.
Q: Is that going to conflict with what you're going to try to do here in terms of telling NCOs and sergeants to put their arms around these people?
A: That's the question. That is the question that's raised right here, because that's what this is about. It's about those two initiatives among others. It's about whether we set a pattern that once again, sends the messages that our NCOs and company grade officers can't go in there. I don't expect a conflict, but we're going to -- we're certainly going to look and see. Because you're right.
We, in the Army, have to do both. We have to support the legitimate efforts that have gone forward in the past to enhance the quality of life of our soldiers. They work hard. If we can do something to make their life a little easier when they're off duty, we should. At the same time, the question that came up when the task force did its review is having done that, have we also been careful enough to anticipate the additional challenges to monitoring how they're doing and what they're doing that this can raise. That's what this assessment, this look-see is for. We are going to make sure that our sergeants and our officers know what's happening on their posts and in their barracks. We will not have it any other way. I think the American people expect it. We will try to do it without a cost to those initiatives. But those initiatives will be among the ones looked at. But the effect, I'm sorry, the effect of those initiatives will be among the ones looked at. Follow-up?
Q: Yes, just a quick follow-up. Were there any other Asian or Hispanic members of the panel and if not, why not?
A: This is the panel. We made no effort to exclude anybody. I kept the number to five so that there would be less opportunity for delaying discussions. I didn't hope to get single members of single mind and it turned out, I didn't get members of a single mind. There was lively discussion. But, we filled the spots we had and there was no efforts to try to get a representation. These just happened to be the folks we turned up. Right here.
Q: Does the numbers of the [inaudible] survey reflect accurately a gender and the racial make-up in the Army? We have here numbers used, male were 83 percent, female 17 percent, and we have white 56 percent, and black 28 percent, Hispanic 11 percent.
A: Well, it's not so bad. What they reflect the make-up of the population sample of the ones we interviewed. But I don't think that's a bad sample for our Army quite frankly. I think we can get a pretty good representation of what the Army thinks. I remind you that just in case we couldn't, we also did the sensing sessions with some all single ethnic groups sessions. All black. All Hispanic. The like. So, I think we tried to account for an opportunity to make sure that we heard it from all points of view. One more because I heard somebody already say Thank you. Q: The North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP has wanted to meet with the commander at Fort Bragg. They had access to several military installations in North Carolina and you met with them. But to date, the commander of Fort Bragg has not met with that group. Will that happen?
A: Yes. It's my fault. They were scheduled to meet yesterday, I believe, and they have put their meeting off until next week because they also when they finish, I think want to talk about how the meeting went. I'd like for them to have the benefit of what we said today. But, they will be meeting. The meeting date has already been set between General Keane and the chapter.
Q: How much impact did that meeting with the NAACP in North Carolina have on your final report?
A: Tremendous. I mean, the fact is that all this input was important to us. An organization like NAACP has been concerned about relationships among people of diverse backgrounds and ethnic groups for a long, long time. Since before I was born. They have great wisdom to bring, great experience, and great knowledge of what goes on in their communities. The one thing I would say, that I would leave with you about this task force effort, is what it says about your Army.
Now, I won't repeat the same line that I gather you're already tired of hearing. But I will say this. You couldn't have a better Army if you dreamed it up. The American people have every right to share the pride and the confidence that I have in that Army. What we know about them is that everyday -- day in and day out -- they stand ready to serve their country, and they do it, and I will now refer to the task force report. They do it fully supportive of America's finest values. The task force reports that those soldiers say there is no place in the American military for extremism and extremists views and activities and organizations just as there is no place in American society for them.
Thank you for listening and thank you for your questions.