Defense Issues: Volume, 11, Number 57-- Deterring and Eliminating Hate Group Activities The presence of extremists in the military is a readiness issue. The Department of Defense is committed to equal opportunity and determined to prevent extremists from disrupting the armed forces.
Volume, 11, Number 57
Deterring and Eliminating Hate Group Activities
Prepared statements of Edwin Dorn, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr., Navy Secretary John H. Dalton and Air Force Secretary Sheila E. Widnall to the House National Security Committee, June 25, 1996.
Dorn. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I am honored to join Army Secretary West, Navy Secretary Dalton and AF [Air Force] Secretary Widnall at this witness table.
This is an important and timely hearing: important, because it gives us an opportunity to reiterate our commitment to equal opportunity and our determination to keep racists and other extremists from disrupting the U.S. military; timely, because we are just now in the process of refining the rules that prohibit military personnel from participating in extremist activities.
[I am] obliged to offer three points of reference:
- First, the United States has the finest military in the world. It attracts high-quality young men and women, it trains them to a high state of readiness, and it tries to provide them and their families a good quality of life.
- Second, [the] U.S. military has long been a leader in the area of equal opportunity.
- Third, those who participate in racist or other extremist activities are a minuscule portion of the force. But even a small number is too many; we want them out of the force altogether.
We are doing three things to discourage extremist activity.
First, we are refining policy. Our basic statement on this matter, DoD Directive 1325.6, Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces, was last updated in 1986. The directive says that military personnel must reject participation in organizations that:
- Espouse supremacist causes;
- Attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion or nation origin; or
- Advocate the use of force or violence, or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.
We are working on several improvements in DoDD 1325.6, such as:
- Making clear that the policy applies to reservists, not just to active duty, resolving some confusion over what is meant by "active," as opposed to "passive," participation.
Right now, the directive lists several forms of participation -- demonstrating, fund raising, recruiting and training members, organizing or leading the group. (Some military personnel apparently thought that this list was exhaustive and that other forms of participation, such as merely joining the group or contributing money to it, might be permissible.)
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.
The revised directive policy will not attempt to list all the possible activities, displays and organizations that can be prohibited. Rather, it will make clear that whether a particular activity or display will be prohibited will depend on the commander's judgment about the effect of that display or activity on good order and discipline.
(The list of prohibited activities, organizations and displays could never be exhaustive, because such things are ever-changing; fringe groups are always popping up and dying out. Further, soldiers retain certain constitutional rights of free expression. However, soldiers do not have a right to do things that harm the good order and discipline of a military organization.)
Second, we are enhancing our training. DoD did not require training on extremist activities. All the services offered blocks of training on extremism, but exactly what was offered and when, varied.
In [the] future, we want all the services to provide training at key points: basic training, precommission training, professional military education and so on. Also, we have instructed the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute [Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.] to add a block on extremism.
Training is important because the military services are ever-changing. Each year, we recruit about 200,000 young men and women into the active force, another 150,000 into the reserves. They come from all corners of our society, including a few dark corners where young people are exposed to racist, xenophobic and misogynist notions. 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.
The services have been remarkably successful in instilling the values of racial tolerance and equal opportunity. The senseless tragedy at Fayetteville [N.C.] indicates that we are not 100 percent successful.
Third, we are improving our monitoring and reporting. The services use a variety of means to monitor and report extremist activity. (In addition to their internal reporting systems, the services also follow reporting requirements of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990.) However, DoD has never aggregated the service information, partly because of differences in format. In [the] future, we will do two things.
First, we are developing a Defense Incident-Based Reporting System to standardize the way the services report a range of criminal incidents, including crimes motivated by racial and religious bias. Second, consistent with a congressional requirement, we will conduct periodic DoD-wide surveys to gauge the state of race relations in the military. We are now preparing a survey to be administered this fall, with results ready by spring of next year. I believe it will be useful to do a DoD-wide climate assessment every couple of years; that is as often as is needed to detect trends.
(The services already conduct a variety of race relations and EO [equal opportunity] climate assessments, but this will be the most extensive DoD-wide survey in several years. Caveat: a survey is not likely to detect changes in extremist attitudes or activities, because the numbers are so small.)
Finally, let me stress the importance of leadership.
[The] key finding from Rep. [Ronald V.] Dellums' 1994 report, "An Assessment of Racial Discrimination in the Military: A Global Perspective" [is]: What military leaders say and do -- the command climate they establish -- is very important, perhaps more important than the formal rules and reports.
This is a useful lesson for others of us who occupy positions of leadership. We should be mindful of the impression we create when we talk about racial issues. Only recently did this society renounce legal segregation and discrimination. Many of us in this room attended segregated schools, and some of us rode at the back of the bus.
The stain of racism didn't evaporate with the passage of civil rights laws; it is fading, but very slowly. 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 to fan the embers of racial resentment).
West. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the House National Security Committee today on my assessment of extremist activities in our Army and the steps we are taking to ensure the Army indeed upholds the principles it has pledged to defend.
The bond between Army soldiers and the American people is a long-standing one of more than 221 years. It is a bond composed of a commitment through our soldiers' oath of service and their duty to the Constitution. It is this bond, this oath and this sense of duty that make extremist activities inconsistent with service as a soldier. As I told the American people and the Army last December, the American soldiers duty is to protect the public, not to put any one or two or more of them in fear for their lives.
When I learned of the murders of Ms. Jackie Burden and Mr. Michael James in Fayetteville, N.C., of the apparent extremist motivation behind them and of the implication of three soldiers in the crimes, I formed an interdisciplinary task force to assess the extent of extremism in the Army. I selected quality soldiers and civilians to lead and direct this major undertaking, and called it The Secretary of the Army's Task Force on Extremist Activities: Defending American Values.
Led by Maj. Gen. Larry R. Jordan, deputy inspector general, the task force included Ms. Karen S. Heath, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy (manpower and reserve affairs); Mr. John P. McLaurin III, deputy assistant secretary of the Army (military personnel management and equal opportunity policy); Brig. Gen. Daniel Doherty, commanding general, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command; and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Gene O. McKinney.
I charged the task force to determine the extent of involvement of our soldiers in organizations promoting extremist activities and to assess the overall human relations environment throughout the Army. The task force based its assessment on three independent means of review.
First, the task force sent out four review teems to visit 28 major Army installations in the United States, Germany and Korea. During these visits, they interviewed 7,683 soldiers, both individually and in groups.
Second, the task force reviewed the results of a written survey of 17,080 respondents conducted by Army Research Institute. The survey supplemented the task force interviews, surveyed a different population from those interviewed and afforded soldiers a confidential means to provide information an the extent of extremism in the Army.
Third, the task force reviewed data provided by Army law enforcement and other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The task force completed its assessment Feb. 28, 1996, and provided its findings to me at the beginning of March.
On March 21, 1996, I was able to report to the Army and the American people that, based on the information provided to the task force, extremist activity in the Army and touching the Army is minimal. Civilian law enforcement officials around the installations agreed with this finding.
In addition, there has been little targeting by extremist organizations of groups of U.S. Army soldiers. The task force concluded that America can be as confident of its Army today as it has always been in the past. Our findings indicate that the vast majority of soldiers interviewed embrace the notion that racism has no place in military life.
Even so, one incident is one too many, and the task force made several recommendations for improvement. These recommendations were that the Army should:
- Request that DoD review DoD Directive 1325.6, Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces, and issue guidance on extremist organizations and activities;
- Clarify and expand the Army's regulation (AR 600-20, Army Command Policy) governing extremist activity;
- Develop a reporting process for timely and accurate information sharing on extremism among appropriate staff agencies; and
- Review soldier training at initial entry and during their career-long professional development to ensure that discipline, motivation, team building and Army values are addressed effectively. The task force simultaneously conducted an assessment on selected areas in the Army human relations environment. They made the following recommendations in the human relations area:
- Review the Army Equal Opportunity Program, including staffing, training and the complaint process, to ensure responsiveness to the contemporary needs of soldiers and leaders;
- Develop a process to evaluate soldiers' behavior, adaptability and human relations sensitivities during recruitment and initial entry training; and
- Clarify Army policies and chain of command responsibilities for the barracks in which single soldiers live. In March, when I reported to the American people on extremist activity in the Army, I also directed the Army to take immediate steps to improve its approach to extremist activities and to focus our efforts on providing a human relations climate that fosters teamwork, respect for human dignity and pride in oneself and the Army.
We are moving swiftly. I have directed the assistant secretary of the army (manpower and reserve affairs) to oversee personally the implementation of the task force's recommendations. Lead agencies have completed their implementation plans, and they have been reviewed to ensure that our approach is coordinated and synchronized. Periodic updates will be provided to me to ensure that the recommendations are being addressed.
I would like to address two specific areas where we have already made significant progress.
The first is in the review and revision of Army policy on extremist activities. On April 1, 1996, the Office of the General Counsel completed its review on policy governing extremist activities and is currently working with the judge advocate general to draft a revision to paragraph 4-12, AR 600-20, Army Command Policy. The Army is revising its policy on extremist activities to ensure that our soldiers and commanders understand what is and is not acceptable behavior. In addition, the Army is assisting DoD with revision of its policy on extremist activities.
The second area of significant progress is that of reporting and tracking extremist criminal activities in the Army. On April 11, 1996, the Army Criminal Investigation Command issued guidance to its field elements to formalize data collection and dissemination of information concerning extremist and gang criminal activities on and around Army installations and facilities. The first criminal intelligence report, covering calendar year 1995, is due to Criminal Investigative Command headquarters by July 15, 1996. Subsequent reports are now due quarterly.
The command guidance included a format to develop an extremist and gang criminal activity threat assessment that will be available to installation commanders. By Sept. 1, 1996, the 1995 data will be available for review and for use by the deputy chief of staff for intelligence for their annual Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the Army training guidance.
I am satisfied with the initial progress we have made. My staff will continue to work with field commanders to ensure full implementation of the task force recommendations.
In closing, the work of the Secretary of the Army's Task Force on Extremist Activities: Defending American Values has proved valuable to our Army, even as the incident that prompted its formation was a senseless, needless tragedy. As I said at the outset last December, even one incident of extremist activity is one too many in our Army.
We need to ensure that our Army is ready -- that its units are cohesive and that its members can perform as part of an effective team. And we need to ensure that our Army adheres to the values it is charged to protect. Through the actions I have described to you, I intend to do that. Our nation and its sons and daughters who serve in uniform deserve no less.
Dalton. Chairman [Floyd D.] Spence, Congressman Dellums, distinguished committee members. It is a privilege to address this committee on the Department of the Navy's efforts in the prevention of extremist activity.
The Navy and Marine Corps are firmly committed to zero tolerance of extremist activity. The tragic incident in Fayetteville, N.C., last year sent a clear signal on the importance of both awareness and timely action with respect to extremism. While this egregious behavior has not been a significant problem for the Navy Department in the past, we intend to leave no doubt that this sort of behavior will be dealt with swiftly and strongly.
I am charged by law to maintain the readiness of the Navy and Marine Corps. The prevention of extremist activity -- and the elimination of detrimental extremist conduct -- is clearly a readiness issue. To ensure that we indeed maintain a ready force, I have made one of my primary goals that the Navy and Marine Corps foster a climate where each member is treated with dignity and respect.
Toward that objective, the department has many successful programs already in place. But ... we discovered some areas that needed improvement during our recent program review. So we have expanded our training to specifically address the issue of extremist activity. These training enhancements will focus the department's preventative and corrective measures on the broader context of our equal opportunity program.
The Navy and Marine Corps have monitored equal opportunity and racial incidents for a number of years, and we've responded aggressively to every confirmed report. The department has a number of survey instruments to track command climate, both at the local command level and servicewide. In the Navy and Marine Corps, the results of our most recent surveys were very encouraging. Our sailors and Marines take our equal opportunity program seriously, and we are proud of our record.
Immediately after the incident in Fayetteville, the Navy Department launched a comprehensive review of our equal opportunity programs, policies and experiences to achieve five goals:
- First, to determine the scope of extremist activity in the Navy and Marine Corps;
- Second, to determine the parameters of our authority to control extremist activity among our members;
- Third, to change regulations and policies -- if necessary -- to ensure swift separation processing of any member of the department who engages in extremist conduct;
- Fourth, to establish an efficient and effective way to identify and monitor extremist incidents; and
- Fifth, to foster and improve the climate of tolerance and mutual respect in the Navy Department. ... In closing, I would like to reaffirm the Navy Department's commitment to a force that respects and defends the personal dignity of every American. The department's policy is very clear: We have zero tolerance for any hate group conduct. We want to eliminate conduct that adversely affects good order and discipline. We simply do not -- and will not -- tolerate sailors, Marines or civilians of the Department of the Navy who engage in extremist activities.
I am confident that the Navy and Marine Corps are taking the steps needed to prevent or, if necessary, aggressively combat, extremist activity in the Department of the Navy. Our core values of honor, courage and commitment describe the standard of behavior for our men and women. The readiness of the Navy and Marine Corps to defend our nation's interests around the world depends upon our unwavering adherence to these core values. Let me assure you that the Navy Department is indeed ready to meet the challenges ahead.
Thank you for addressing this important issue. I look forward to your questions.
Widnall. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I welcome this opportunity to appear with my colleagues to discuss this very serious issue with you and let you know what actions the Air Force is taking to deter and eliminate any presence of hate groups in our forces.
The racist attitudes and discriminatory acts that give rise to hate groups are a very real threat to military strength and cohesiveness. Such attitudes and acts reflect larger movements within society and threaten the entire sense of community, military and civilian, that makes America work. Insofar as these attitudes can be found in our forces -- and I think that, fortunately, they are much less prevalent in the military than in the larger society -- they reflect a broader, national concern.
The rancor and suspicion and the lack of civility that increasingly mar our discourse threaten permanent damage to our political and social institutions. It is incumbent on all of us -- whether we wear a uniform or not -- to do what we can to heal these breaches in our society, to avoid driving further wedges between the groups that make up this wonderful mosaic that is America.
The American military has a powerful role to play in that regard. We are to some extent a reflection of society -- but we should also be an engine, helping to move this nation toward tolerance and equal opportunity. We have played that role since the late 1940s, compelled in no small part by the iron necessity of combat readiness. We have an absolute obligation, and the American people have an absolute right to expect, that military members will use their expertise and the lethal tools of our trade to protect them and never to harm them.
It is important to establish the framework within which we approach this issue of extremism within our ranks. We exist to fight and win America's wars. Nothing must come between the Air Force and its ability to fulfill that mission.
Cohesion within a military unit is at the heart of military effectiveness; division within the ranks, conversely, destroys a force. We cannot tolerate that, -- and Gen. [Ronald R.] Fogleman [Air Force chief of staff] and I have taken decisive action to ensure that our policy is clear, that it is understood by everyone in the Air Force and that our commanders have the authority they need to combat this threat.
In the Air Force, our policy is clearly stated and widely publicized. We prohibit active participation in organizations that support supremacist causes; advocate the use of force, violence or illegal discrimination; or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of civil rights. This policy, at its core, mandates respect and dignity for all individuals. We must ensure that our people enjoy the rights and the working environment necessary for them to exert their talents fully in the service of their country.
[We took steps] in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing to assess the magnitude of the problem. On the whole, the information obtained was encouraging. But in any organization, there is always the concern that there is a disconnect between the headquarters and the people in the field. And so we went out to our wing commanders last March to make sure beyond any shadow of a doubt that they were confident that they had the guidance they needed and the authority and latitude necessary to eliminate this threat.
Ultimately, it is these commanders across the force who will ensure the success of this policy. And they responded almost unanimously that they know what was expected of them -- and that they had the authority necessary to execute their responsibilities.
For example, from Mildenhall AB [Air Base, United Kingdom] our commander noted that "I have no doubts about my authority or for that matter my responsibility as a commander, to judge the appropriateness of ... indices of extremist group activity. Similarly, I would have no difficulty ... taking active steps to ensure that the offender is dealt with administratively commensurate with the offense. Nor would I have difficulty taking sterner measures authorized under the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] should such action be warranted either by repeated offenses or the seriousness of the conduct."
And so we are satisfied that we are doing what is necessary to combat this evil. Our policy of zero tolerance is clear and comprehensive. We have ensured education in this area at numerous points throughout each person's career, and we've strengthened our training programs for wing and group commanders to make sure that these principles are fully understood.
Across the Air Force, we find that our people are mature and focused on mission accomplishment. They understand and support the policy. The results of our survey were encouraging in that regard, and we found no evidence of hate groups operating on any of our bases around the world.
But we can never take it for granted that in an organization composed of nearly 400,000 men and women in uniform, every person will live up to the standards we establish. So we can never relax. The stakes are too high. We will maintain our vigilance -- because only by doing so can we ensure that we can fulfill our obligations to this nation.
Thank you again for the opportunity to discuss these issues. I look forward to our discussion.
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