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No Place in DOD for Extremism, White Supremacy, Officials Say

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There is no place in the Defense Department for those who espouse extremist views, DOD officials said today.

In wake of the siege of the U.S. Capitol January 6, Defense Department officials reemphasized the department has zero tolerance for service members or employees engaged in extremism, white supremacy or who belong to organizations that look to overturn the U.S Constitution.

Simply put, we will not tolerate extremism of any sort in DOD."
Gary Reed, director for defense intelligence and counterintelligence, law enforcement and security

"We … are doing everything we can to eliminate extremism in the Department of Defense," Gary Reed, the director for defense intelligence and counterintelligence, law enforcement and security, said. "DOD policy expressly prohibits military personnel from actively advocating supremacist, extremist or criminal gang doctrine, ideology or causes."

All military personnel, including those in the reserve components, have undergone background investigations and are subject to continuous evaluation, Reed said. "Simply put, we will not tolerate extremism of any sort in DOD," he said.

Reed statements come on the heels of the extraordinary memo from the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That memo reminded service members of their oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

Closeup view of the Defense Department seal on a lectern.
DOD Seal
The Defense Department seal adorns a lectern in the briefing room at the Pentagon, March 17, 2020.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 200317-D-BN624-0020Y

Domestic extremists invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6, trying to derail Congress from counting the votes of the Electoral College. That mostly symbolic vote declared Joseph Biden won the 2020 election and will be the next president of the United States on Jan. 20.

Some in the crowd that broke into the Capitol were military veterans, and news reports said there may have been active duty members in the crowd as well. 

The department works diligently to ensure that those who espouse extremist views do not end up in the services, senior DOD officials said speaking on background. 

Officials examine those who wish to join the military, speaking to family, friends, teachers, workmates and more before they are allowed to pledge their oath to the Constitution, one official said. Still, some may get in and the department has continuous training and observation to detect these people.

"We work very closely with the FBI to identify any current or former military personnel engaged in domestic extremist behaviors," the official said.

Some military personnel are seduced by the violent militia behavior. "You've seen many examples of that in this country over the years of these militias becoming armed and active," the official said. "Then (there is) another domain within this phenomenon (of those) that are racially or ethnically motivated."

The rise of extremism in the general population affects the department, the official said. "There has been a resurgence of white supremacy and white nationalist activity over the past five or six years," he said. "The 2017 rally in Charlottesville was probably the largest gathering of white supremacy in this country in decades."

Pentagon Aerial
Pentagon Aerial
Pentagon Aerial
Photo By: Lance Cpl. Quinn Hurt
VIRIN: 200912-M-YQ395-0060Z

He noted that there are private studies that show since 2001, right-wing extremists are responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than any other type of extremist group. 

These groups actively seek to recruit military members to their causes. Other groups "actually encourage their members to join the military, for purposes of acquiring skills and experience," the official said.

Officials said Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller has ordered a review of all policies, laws or regulations concerning participation by service members in extremist organizations. 

"This review will result in a report and recommendations concerning any initiatives we could put forward to more effectively prohibit extremists or hate group activity," the official said.

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