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Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Extremism, prompted by a USA TODAY investigation, has finally led to the military revealing an internal report on the issue.

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Extremism More than 18 months after its completion, the Department of Defense has unveiled a report addressing extremism within its ranks. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin commissioned this report in April 2021 as part of a series of “immediate actions” following the January 6 insurrection, leading to the charging of numerous military members.

Stalled Progress Uncovered: USA TODAY Investigation

An earlier investigation by USA TODAY this year uncovered minimal progress in the military’s efforts to combat extremism, with crucial initiatives appearing to be stagnant. Among these initiatives was the “Study on Extremist Activity within the Total Force,” completed by the Institute for Defense Analyses in June 2022 but only released recently in response to renewed requests.

Insights and Limitations: What the Report Reveals

While the 262-page report is subject to expert examination, it provides limited new data on the scope of the military’s extremism problem. Instead, it compiles existing data from sources such as the military’s Inspector General, recognizing the constraints of relying on court martial judgments.

Rare yet Dangerous: Conclusions on Military Extremism

Contrary to expectations, the report concludes that extremism within the military is rare but poses a significant threat. It underscores the risk presented by even a small number of individuals with military connections engaging in violent extremist activities.

Security Clearance Challenges: Outdated Processes and Recommendations

The report criticizes the military’s outdated process for awarding security clearances, highlighting its focus on Cold War and Global War on Terrorism threats. Recommendations include updating and standardizing security questions to directly address prohibited extremist activities.

Real Risks: Recent Incidents and Warnings

Recent incidents, including the arrest of Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira for posting classified documents and the involvement of three active-duty Marines in the January 6 insurrection, underscore the urgency of addressing security clearance processes. The report warns that without updates, the Department remains vulnerable to unknowingly allowing individuals with a history of violent extremist conduct into privileged positions within the military community.

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