Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did not say, when asked by a Republican lawmaker this week, whether rooting out “extremism” in the military was still a top priority for him, after the Pentagon uncovered less than 100 cases of extremism in the past year.
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), an Army Special Forces reservist, recalled Tuesday in Austin during a House Armed Services Committee hearing that “the rise of extremism, particularly the white supremacy in the military, in our ranks, was a top priority for you.”
Waltz added: “Actually, that was your first memo. Yet the department released a study this year, a year later, showing that 100 members of the military participated in some type of extremism. C That’s 100 out of 2.5 million. By my calculations, that shows that 99.996% of our military have not participated in any form of extremism.
He asked Austin, “So with this data now being data driven, is that still a top priority for you, or can we move on?”
Austin didn’t say if it was still a top priority. Instead, he said:
You have raised a few points here, and let me say that my top priority is to defend this country. It has been and it always will be. On the question of the percentages of people who have — are involved in extremist activities, you heard me say that 99.9% of our people do the right thing every day, and I’m proud of them for what they do . But a small percentage of people can have an outsized impact on our organization.
Waltz warned Austin that he should be careful not to push the narrative that the U.S. military had extremists.
“I think we have to be very careful. We also see in the polls a record drop in public confidence in the US military. So I think we have to be very careful with narratives. We even had a hearing here in this committee on the rise of white supremacy within our military,” Waltz said.
During his confirmation hearing in January 2021, Austin pledged to “clear our ranks of racists and extremists.”
One of the first things Austin did as Secretary of Defense was to order a force-wide “pullout” for commanders to address “extremism” with their troops.
During the pullout, troops learned that the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 was an example of extremism, but not the riots related to the death of George Floyd.
According to Military.com, senior enlisted adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ramon Colón-López told reporters that those running the stand-down sessions wanted to “make sure the military understands the difference between Seattle and [the Jan. 6 riot in] washington dc”
“But some of our younger members are confused about it, so we need to go ahead and talk to them and educate them, to make sure they know exactly what they can and can’t do.” , did he declare.
Austin also created a Countering Extremism Task Force to combat “extremism” within the military.
However, a year later, the task force found that less than 100 of the military’s more than two million members had engaged in extremist activity.
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