The Defense Department’s top uniformed officials want service members to know that Joe Biden is going to be their next commander in chief, and that any attempt to prevent a peaceful transition of power will have consequences.

In an internal memo issued force-wide, the Joint Chiefs of Staff called out the ransacking of the Capitol building on Wednesday,

“We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law,” they wrote. “The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition, and insurrection.”

The letter’s signees include Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, his vice chairman, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, as well as Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, Air Force Chief of Staff Charles “CQ” Brown, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Daniel Hokanson.

“As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution,” they wrote. “Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.”

In the wake of the attack, the Justice Department has opened 170 investigations and charged 70 participants in the protest-turned-riot at the Capitol, acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said during a press conference Tuesday.

Among those are two military veterans, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and a junior-enlisted sailor. Separately, the Army has opened an investigation into a Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based captain who traveled to D.C. to protest, though there is no evidence she was involved in storming the Capitol.

The issue of extremists in the military has periodically reared its head in recent years, with a renewed interest following Wednesday’s attack.

While officials have said that individual cases, both in the past and perhaps as a result of the Capitol riot, will be investigated properly, leaders have not called for centrally tracking and monitoring those cases.

“...investigations into service members fall under the services,” a defense official told Military Times on Monday. “If the member is no longer in the military it would fall under [the Justice Department.”

More than one-third of all active-duty troops and more than half of minority service members say they have personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism, according to a 2020 survey of active-duty Military Times readers.

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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