U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III has said he is committing to review efforts to eliminate extremism among military servicemembers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Austin – the nation’s first Black defense secretary – said he wanted military leaders to be informed of what to look for and to ensure “our servicemembers are reminded of what we are about, reminded of the values that we hold dear in this organization.”
He recently ordered a military-wide “stand down” – it is intended for discussions among troops about how to report extremism.
Part of the reason for the stand down order is to understand how little information there is on the current degree of extremism in the military.
“I will also do a more thorough review at my level to make sure that I have the right policies and procedures in place at the department level to ensure that we are empowering our servicemembers, our leaders, to be able to ensure we have healthy climates,” Austin said.
More than 20 current servicemembers or veterans took part in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol siege.
“The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies, but we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks,” Austin said.
More than one third of all active duty troops have witnessed white nationalism or ideologically-driven racism in the military, according to a 2019 online survey of 1,630 active duty troops. Examples include swastikas, iconography related to white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi salutes.
Approximately 40% of current servicemembers are people of color, Austin said.