Pentagon Urged to End Witch Hunt for ‘Extremists’ in the Ranks

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky


The Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report urging the Pentagon to halt its fruitless hunt for “extremists” in the ranks. The report, accompanying the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act, states that “spending additional time and resources to combat exceptionally rare instances of extremism in the military is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds, and should be discontinued by the Department of Defense immediately.”

The witch hunt was ordered by the Pentagon in April 2021. The” Countering Extremist Activity Working Group” (CEAWG) eventually discovered fewer than 100 instances of confirmed extremist activity in 2021, the Pentagon reported in December.

“With roughly 2.1 million active and reserve personnel in the U.S. military, 100 cases is roughly .005% of the force,” according to Fox News.

In addition to the taxpayer burden, and impact on combat readiness training, Anderson said the attention spent on rooting out extremism has taken a toll on recruitment efforts.

With less than three months remaining in the fiscal year, all branches of the military are struggling to meet recruiting goals.

An internal Defense Department survey found that only 9% of Americans ages 17-24 eligible to serve in the military had any inclination to do so, the lowest number since 2007, according to NBC.

The U.S. Army is expecting to cut the size of its forces in the coming years due to recruiting difficulties, which has already left them 10,000 soldiers short of their goal for this year. The Air Force is 4,000 recruits behind its goal.

The investigation was begun when it was discovered that some January 6 defendants were active-duty military. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered a military-wide “stand down” to address extremism in February 2021. That such a minuscule number of extremists were uncovered doesn’t phase those who want the hunt to continue.

Bangor Daily News:

“What is the impact on morale, good order and discipline, and ultimately combat effectiveness, if the men and women in our incredibly diverse and all-volunteer military believe that the Department of Defense doesn’t have their backs when it comes to white supremacy, support for jihadism, misogynist extremism, or anti-LGBTQ+ extremism?” said Bill Braniff, director of the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, or START.

A lone Democrat, Senator Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, voted to include the recommendation to nix the CEAWG in the Armed Services Committee report. But Democrats may still be able to delete it from the final product and keep the CEAWG in operation.

How do you define an “extremist”? The Pentagon makes it impossible.


Military commanders will be provided with a “two-part test” that first focuses on allegations of alleged extremist activity and then looks at whether there is active participation.

Fourteen categories will help commanders determine if a service member is an active participant in extremist activities.

“When you go through the list that we have in the instruction you’ll see that there’s not a whole lot about membership in a group that you’re going to be able to get away with,” said Kirby. “In order to prove your membership, you’re probably going to run afoul of one of these of one of these criteria sets.”

There are certain obvious violations like when “a service member is advocating for domestic terrorism or the overthrow of the government, or you’re actively undermining the oath you took to the Constitution to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” to quote the instructions.

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