The Pentagon’s independent inspector general’s office wants to know more about how the military services weed out potential extremists or gang members during the recruiting process, according to a Tuesday project announcement.

Starting this month, the office will work with the military departments, as well as the defense under secretary for personnel and readiness, to study whether current recruit screening mirrors what’s written down in policy.

“We may revise the objective as the audit proceeds, and we will also consider suggestions from management for additional or revised objectives,” Richard Vasquez, the assistant inspector general for audit readiness and global operations, wrote in a memo signed Jan. 3.

The audit comes three weeks after the Defense Department released a report by its Countering Extremism Working Group, which included an update to existing DoD policy governing what counts as extremist behavior for service members.

As part of that effort, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the services to update their accessions screening forms “to include questions on membership in racially biased entities and other extremist groups, as well as participation in violent acts,” according to the working group’s report.

Recruiting commands can also now access FBI resources to identify tattoos or brands associated with extremism or criminal gangs, as well as other symbols.

Updated training and guidance are also on the way for troops and leadership, a defense official told reporters Dec. 20.

The Pentagon’s been working to tamp down on extremism both within the military and in its hiring processes, inspired by reports in 2021 that as many as 20% of those arrested for participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol were either current or former service members.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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