When Lloyd Austin commanded the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg in the mid-1990s, he “missed the mark,” failing to realize that he had skinheads in his ranks who had committed murders off-base.
Two decades later, as a civilian defense secretary, he has ordered the service secretaries and military chiefs to conduct a 60-day assessment, or “stand down,” to determine how to root out extremism in the ranks.
“The events of Jan. 6 served as a wake-up call for this department,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told defense reporters at a gaggle on Wednesday, referring to the Capitol riot by some of former President Donald Trump’s supporters.
Federal and local law enforcement officials said they have identified white supremacists and other far-Right individuals within the violent mob.
“There were members, sadly, of the active-duty force participating and espousing these radical beliefs,” he added. “We don’t know the full breadth and depth of it.”
The Department of Defense does not have data or a definition to describe what constitutes white supremacy or extremism in the ranks.
“The DOD policy expressly prohibits military personnel from actively advocating for and participating in supremacist, extremist, or criminal gain doctrine, ideology, or causes,” Kirby said, citing a DOD instruction from 2012.
The instruction prohibits things such as fundraising, demonstrating, or rallying on behalf of extremist beliefs or organizations, recruiting, training, or leading members and distributing material, he added.
It does not give clear guidance, however, for what service members can post on social media and what private messages commanders are allowed to investigate.
“Under current policies, it’s not against the rules for you to have a certain belief, but if you act on a belief in a way that violates the [Uniform Code of Military Justice], then the system can make you accountable,” he said.
As he did when he spoke to senators at his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing, Austin told the service chiefs again Wednesday that extremism was “a leadership issue.”
Then, Austin spoke about his time leading the 82nd Airborne.
“They all missed the mark. They all didn’t see that. At leadership, they didn’t see that,” Kirby said, describing Austin’s comments at the meeting.
“His belief was that somebody at the lower levels had to have known this and seen this,” he said. “How do you get that visibility up the chain? That’s something we’re going to have to work on.”
Author: Abraham Mahshie
Source: Washington Examiner: Lloyd Austin calls for 60-day assessment of extremism within military after Capitol riot