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Austin Orders Immediate Changes to Combat Extremism in Military

April 9, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered some immediate changes to better combat extremism, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today.

Kirby said Austin started making moves after meeting with service secretaries and hearing partial results of the Defense Department-wide stand down he ordered in January.

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The actions he ordered are critical first steps, Kirby said. 

Austin is establishing a countering extremism working group led by Bishop Garrison, the senior advisor on human capital and diversity, equity and inclusion. The group will examine how the services implement these immediate actions and also work toward intermediate and long-range goals.

A key action is directing DOD officials to review and update the definition of extremism contained in DOO Instruction 1325.06, Kirby said. Service members across the services asked for a clear definition of extremism, the service secretaries told Austin.

The secretary is also calling on the services to update transition instructions to warn those leaving the military of the dangers posed by extremist groups. Kirby noted that some extremist groups are actively trying to recruit military members who possess leadership abilities, planning expertise and knowledge of weapons that these groups desire.

He also ordered the services to work closer together and learn best practices from each other to ensure extremists do not get into the ranks. Kirby said the services will work with law enforcement agencies to accomplish this.

Austin also directed officials to try to discern the scope of the problem within the department.

One specific line of effort the working group will look at is determining how the department should facilitate better information collection, Kirby said. This would help define the scope and extent of the problem. It will also look at sharing among the service insider threat programs.

Man briefs reporters.
Press Briefing
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby holds a press briefing at the Pentagon, April 9, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackie Sanders
VIRIN: 210409-D-XI929-2003

"I think the working group wants to look at how well (the services) are interconnected, and how robustly they are sharing information, best practices, to include data collection through partnership with the law enforcement organizations, as well as commanders and supervisors."

The service secretaries had a frank discussion with the secretary on the problems of extremism, but they also noted that the vast majority of service members and civilians take their oaths to support and defend the Constitution seriously.

"The vast majority are serving with honor and dignity and upholding the oath and living by the core values of the military," Kirby said. 

The vast majority of those serving are not espousing these ideologies. Yet even the few doing so have a corrosive effect, the press secretary said. 

The working group will meet around April 14 and have 90 days to deliver a report to Austin on recommendations for medium-range and long-range plans to combat this scourge.