DOD Announces First Steps to Address Extremism After Stand Downs

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on April 9 announced interim steps to counter extremism in the ranks following Defense Department-wide stand downs to discuss the issue, including updating DOD guidance on what defines extremist behavior as well as questionnaires that prospective service members fill out.

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Austin ordered the stand downs and a review of DOD policies regarding extremism. Now, he has created a Countering Extremism Working Group to discuss future actions to continue to address the issue, the Pentagon announced.

The immediate actions that Austin ordered are:

  • Updating DOD Instruction 1325.06 to more specifically define “extremist behavior.”
  • Updating the Service Member Transition Checklist to include training on potential targeting of service members by extremist groups. Create a way for veterans to report any contact with an extremist group if they choose. Each military department will update and standardize the questionnaire to “solicit specific information about current or previous extremist behavior,” according to the release
  • Commission a study on extremist behavior in the total force, so the DOD can better understand the scope of the problem.

Bishop Garrison, the senior adviser to the Secretary of Defense on Human Capital and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, will oversee the working group to look at mid- and long-term recommendations. The group will look at four lines of effort: military justice and policy, support and oversight of the insider threat program, screening capability, and education and training.