One of President Joe Biden’s first priorities upon taking office was to hunt down alleged white supremacists in the U.S. military.
But now senators are saying enough is enough – as the cost nor time are no longer justified since there seems to be little proof of such activity in the military.
As the Capitol Hill insider publication Roll Call noted on Wednesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee “has called on the Defense Department to halt its programs to prevent and root out extremism in the ranks.”
The committee signaled its thinking in a report that accompanied the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon’s main spending bill.
In the document, the committee maintained 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,” Roll Call reported.
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Roll Call noted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his staff based the hunt for “extremists” on the fact that dozens of people — about 17 percent — of the people charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol were current or former troops.
Roll Call also pointed out that a special Pentagon committee formed to conduct the manhunt reported in December 2021 that “it had found 100 cases of extremism in a total military force of over 2 million people — or .005 percent.”
As The Free Press reported in June 2021, Austin launched the quest for alleged “extremists” yet had not defined who exactly qualified months after he started. In May 2022, the Defense Department’s own inspector general’s office released a report that said the term still had not been defined. And because of that, senior commanders were impotent to do anything about the issue.
An Army document released last year attempted to do so, saying that label applied to soldiers supporting terrorist or criminal organizations, advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government by “force, violence, or sedition,” or promoting subversion such as urging people to break the law or disobey lawful orders. It also encompassed demonstrating “hatred or intolerance” based on race, sex (including gender identity), sexual orientation, or ethnicity, as well as “creating or engaging” in discrimination based on race, color, sex (including gender identity), national origin, religion, or sexual orientation, or using “force or violence or unlawful means to deprive individuals of their rights to achieve political/religious/discriminatory goals.”
Republicans have long countered that labeling troops as extremists were just a way to mask an effort to toss supporters of former President Donald Trump, especially white ones, out of the service.
Last April the Center for Strategic & International Studies studied the administration’s work to find these “extremists.” In its analysis, CSIS noted, “Those involved in violent extremism make up a minuscule fraction of a percent of all service members.”
While Biden, Austin, and other Democrats hold an unshakable belief that America is broadly and systemically racist, the bid to root out extremism has remained a solution in search of a problem.
In its latest report, the committee noted that it “believes that the vast majority of service members serve with honor and distinction, and that the narrative surrounding systemic extremism in the military besmirches the men and women in uniform.”
“The committee believes that when extremist activity does in fact occur that it must be dealt with swiftly and appropriately; however, the case incident rate does not warrant a Department-wide effort on the issue.”
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Ditching the misguided and fruitless search is not guaranteed. Roll Call reported that the committee’s language may still get stripped from the final bill. And it doesn’t help that it barely made it into the bill to begin with.
The report was issued only because Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who sides with Democrats on most issues, voted with the GOP senators to do so. King’s decision made the final vote 14-12.