DOD Chief Lloyd Austin Asks Troops to Share Experiences of Extremists, Extremist Ideology

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a visit by US President Joe Biden to the Pentagon in Washington, DC, February 10, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a video message Friday asking members of the military to tell commanders of any personal experiences with extremists or extremist ideology.

Austin began by praising members of the military.

“There’s not a single doubt in my mind that you take seriously your oath to the Constitution. And that you serve this country with honor and dignity, and character. And that you believe in and uphold our core values each and everyday,” he said.

He then acknowledged the sacrifices military members and their families make, and said his 60-day stand down to address extremism in the military may seem like another “burden.”

“But the truth of the matter is, we need your help. I’m talking of course about extremism and extremist ideology. Views and conduct that run counter to everything that we believe in. And which can actually tear at the fabric of who we are as an institution,” he said.

He said extremist ideology can spread faster and wider thanks to social media and “aggressive and organized and emboldened attitude that many of these hate groups and their sympathizers are now applying to their recruitment and their operations.”

Austin asked members of the military to revisit the oath they took when they joined the military, consider “what they really mean,” and “think about the promise” they made.

He then asked military members to share stories with their commanders of extremists and extremist ideology.

I also want you to share with your leadership your own personal experiences with encountering extremists and extremist ideology in the military, should you have any. And I want your leadership to listen to those stories and I want them to listen to any ideas that you might have to help us stamp out of the ranks the dangerous conduct that this ideology inspires.

“Thank you for helping us get smarter about dealing with this very important readiness issue,” he said.

Austin, in one of his first acts as defense secretary, ordered a 60-day stand down to address extremism in the military — a period during which commanders take at least one day to discuss the issue with their troops.

The Pentagon has struggled to provide any statistics on how big an extremist problem there is in the military, saying it does not comprehensively track cases.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Monday the video would be used along with other training materials to “facilitate a good change of ideas as commands work through their stand downs.”

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