The Pentagon published a new anti-extremism policy on Dec. 20, expanding the definition of extremist activity to include online activity, which includes posting, sharing or even liking anti-government or racially-motivated content.
A working group convened in April was tasked with creating a new definition, updating a years-old “prohibited activities” instruction, as well as provide ideas for better studying extremism in the force, better screening recruits and better preparing transitioning troops for the possibility of recruitment by extremist groups after they’re out of uniform.
“We wanted to push forward with the same standard that we had in our previous iterations of this policy, which is that active participation,” an official told reporters Dec. 20. “So it was really important to us that we preserve First Amendment rights to the extent that we could, and that we focus on an individual’s actions, regardless of whether they did that on their own or as part of an organization.”
A memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin included plans for further training and education for service members, especially those transitioning back to civilian life, as well as new screening protocols for recruits.
The Defense Department inspector general in December released a report that pulled data from all of the services, in what is one of the few master lists of allegations, investigations and adjudications available on the issue.
The report found dozens of allegations of both racially-motivated and anti-government extremism among all of the services. The Marine Corps, in particular, had a disproportionately high number of anti-government cases ― 25 ― compared to the Army’s 30, though the Army is roughly five times the Marine Corps’ size.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT