Pentagon programs hunting down extremists should stop “immediately,” according to the Senate Armed Services Committee’s (SASC) FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act report. In a Biden military where woke programs and schemes focus on nearly every aspect of warfighters’ existence except defending the nation, the SASC language is a positive and welcome change.
The Hunt for Non-Existent Extremists
The divisive program the Pentagon continues to carry out is a broad-brush tarring every service member with the wrongheaded notion the military is teaming with anti-American activists plotting to bring down the US government. With its report language, the SASC clarifies what the committee thinks of the Defense Department’s solution to what is, at most, a rare problem. The report section titled “Extremism in the Military” says:
“DOD CEAWG [Countering Extremist Activity Working Group] ‘[t]he available data generally shows that cases of prohibited extremist activity among service members was rare,’ at just 100 cases. In a force of 2.1 million active and reserve personnel, this is a case rate of .005 percent, one servicemember out of every 21,000…the narrative surrounding systemic extremism in the military besmirches the men and women in uniform.”
The SASC goes on to describe the cost to taxpayers for the DOD crackdown. Despite all the sleuthing, interrogating, and probing of military members’ personal thoughts and comments, the Senate committee explained, “fewer than 100 over the past year” were found guilty of the offending activities. In a letter to the SASC, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley explained the DOD campaign against suspected extremists prompted a stand down of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Guardians, including reservists, to be exposed to 5,359,000 hours of indoctrination against extremism. In addition, Americans paid $500,000, “not including the cost of compiling the report provided by the CEAWG,” for two-hour seminars.
Narrative Over Facts
Not everyone shares the SASC’s commonsense approach to the dearth of radicals in the military.
Placing the approved “Extremism in the Military” language in the Senate defense authorization bill passed by a narrow 14-12 margin. Additionally, whether the language, which isn’t legally binding, or even the sentiment will survive deliberations in the Senate and predominantly liberal House conference committee is debatable. Among those who want the Pentagon to continue the bounty hunter-like tracking down of supremacists is Bill Braniff, a former US Army company commander and now the director of the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START). Braniff believes the potential, albeit minuscule, exists that supremacists lurk behind every tree on a military base, and that impression has a chilling effect on the perception of young people considering joining armed forces. Braniff asked: “Who will raise their right hand to join that military? And what are the implications for civilian control of the military if the military is not responsible for policing anti-government extremism within the ranks?” But the START director has it precisely backward.
There is no more negative motivation to join the armed services than the idea there is a systemic and organized campaign to label dedicated men and women in uniform, even by inference, as guilty of extremism. To Braniff’s point, “Who would raise their right hands” to join that outfit. The low recruitment numbers in the Army in 2022, though not dispositive, do correlate with the Biden administration’s Defense Department campaign to root out radicals as well as other non-defense-related policies.
“The truth appears to be that military-connected people are a small percentage of those convicted of extremism,” Roll Call admitted. And what does “military-connected people” really mean? Reading the CEAWG, that phrase could include a 30-year military retiree, or someone having once seen an episode of Hogan’s Heroes and identified strongly with Col Klink, the German prison camp commandant, and everyone in between.
The SASC report has the issue exactly right. Even if there were some “good order and discipline” motivation behind preventing and rooting out extremism in the military, the demonstrable absence of incidents makes such an effort ludicrously counterproductive. Accordingly, the DOD would do well to take the SASC report language seriously.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.