Republicans on Senate Armed Services Committee tell Pentagon to stop fight against extremism
Washington DC - The Senate Armed Services Committee has called on the Defense Department to stop its programs to prevent and root out extremism in the ranks.
The report accompanying the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was made public late Monday, states the committee’s view 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."
This view – which has no legal power – is exclusively that of the committee's 13 Republican members, plus Maine Independent Senator Angus King, who swung the 14-12 vote in the GOP's favor. All Democrats opposed including that section of the report, prompting familiar cries of partisanship that ignore the Republican Party's increasingly radical turn.
"The committee believes that the vast majority of servicemembers serve with honor and distinction, and that the narrative surrounding systemic extremism in the military besmirches the men and women in uniform," the new Senate report said.
"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."
James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee, told CQ Roll Call by email that extremists "have no place in our military," but added: "We need to balance the size of the problem with the investment we make in dealing with it."
A serious problem with deadly effects
The size of the problem is, however, not insignificant.
Dozens of people charged with ransacking the Capitol on January 6 were former or current service personnel, or about one in 10, which prompted Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III to set up a Countering Extremist Activity Working Group.
The number of convicted extremists with military connections has been on the rise over the past three decades, according to the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
At a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing in April, Chairman Mark Takano, a Democrat from California, also documented how deadly even a few extremists with military training can be.
"From 1990 through 2021, domestic violent extremist attacks by veterans and active-duty service members killed more than 300 people and injured nearly 2,000 more," Takano said.
"This includes the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as well as mass shootings at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, outside a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kansas, and inside a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida."
Cover photo: REUTERS