Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a military-wide stand-down order for the armed forces to have “needed discussions” about extremism in the ranks. The order involves a staggered pause of operations across every branch over the next 60 days, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby announced on Wednesday.
“We don’t know how we’re going to be able to get after this in a meaningful, productive, tangible way and that is why he had this meeting today and that is why he certainly ordered this stand-down,” Kirby told reporters, Reuters reported.
Austin, a former Army general and the first black defense secretary, pledged to rid the military of “racists and extremists” during his confirmation hearing.
Today, I met with senior leaders to discuss extremism in the military. As a first step, I'm ordering a stand down to occur over the next 60 days so each service, each command and each unit can have a deeper conversation about this issue. It comes down to leadership. Everyone’s. pic.twitter.com/wbC21hdHaV
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) February 4, 2021
Austin reportedly ordered the stand-down after a discussion with U.S. military branch leaders concerned about the fact that current and former military servicemembers took part in the Capitol riot on January 6.
The Pentagon had ordered a review of domestic extremism within the ranks long before the Capitol riot, but Austin has insisted on further action.
White supremacist groups have put a premium on recruiting current and former military members.
“The issue of extremists — both white supremacists and anti-government extremists like the militia movement — in the military is certainly a real problem and a perennial one. For that reason, it needs to be addressed, because the past few decades have illustrated that it will not go away on its own,” Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told CNN.
However, the military should be careful to focus only on white supremacy and white nationalism without relying on the expansive definition of racism advocated by Marxist critical race theory or far-left organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Tragically, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Diversity and Inclusion Board has recommended that official policy “prohibit extremist or hate group activity,” citing the SPLC.
The SPLC routinely defames mainstream conservative and Christian nonprofit organizations as “hate groups,” placing them on a list and a map with the Ku Klux Klan. The list includes the Family Research Council (FRC), Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), ACT for America, the Center for Security Policy (CSP), Chick Publications (which publishes gospel tracts), the World Congress of Families, and more.
While the military should act to make sure recruits aren’t attacking one another or plotting to overthrow the U.S. government, relying on outlets like the SPLC could inspire a DoD policy that bars Christian soldiers from going to Bible study in the name of fighting “extremism.”
Although some of the servicemembers who broke into the Capitol likely did so to support former President Donald Trump, it would also be a mistake for the military to look askance at Trump supporters, Republicans, or conservatives for this reason. Sadly, many Democrats seem intent on using the Capitol riot as a pretext to push a domestic “War on Terror” aimed at conservatives.
Kurt Schlichter, a trial lawyer and retired Army infantry colonel, offered to represent anyone “subjected to some form of bulls*** racist indoctrination by the limitary.”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.