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Brown, CBC Chair Beatty, Warner, Booker Urge Inclusion of a Strong Provision to Combat Extremism in the Military, in the FY22 NDAA

“Behaviors that express support for extremist ideologies pose a grave and dangerous threat to unit cohesion, good order and discipline, and readiness.”

“It is imperative the final bill comprehensively addresses the threat of extremism in the military with a robust provision that bolsters training through the insider threat program, improves data collection and interagency sharing, and creates a permanent institutional capacity to meet the challenge of extremism now and into the future.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (OH-03) and Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) wrote the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees urging a strong provision that meets the threat of extremism in the military with the seriousness it warrants.

The House of Representatives passed Congressman Brown’s provision in FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to transform the Department of Defense’s ability to address extremism in the Armed Forces. The provision included increasing institutional leadership in countering extremism, robust training, improved data collection and interagency sharing, and clarification of commanders’ authority to separate members of extremist organizations from service.

“While the Department has issued directives to address the issue of extremism in the military, including a force-wide stand down, recent reports about rioters reenlisting, interagency data sharing failures,  and blanket statements made by military leaders that deny the reality of extremism in the ranks demonstrate that we need legislative action,” the members wrote. “Now is the time for Congress to join this fight and enact its own robust legislative solutions to give the Department the authorities and resources it needs to address these long-overdue issues.” 

The members continued, “It is imperative the final bill comprehensively addresses the threat of extremism in the military with a robust provision that bolsters training through the insider threat program, improves data collection and interagency sharing, and creates a permanent institutional capacity to meet the challenge of extremism now and into the future.”

The members concluded, “It is incumbent upon the Department to root out from our ranks ideological movements that are inconsistent with military values; and it is equally incumbent upon the negotiators to provide commanders with the resources and necessary authorities they need to do so effectively.”  

Earlier this year, the insurrection on the Capitol brought nation-wide attention to this problem. 12 percent of those who have been charged in the riot had military experience. A 2019 annual Military Times poll found that 36 percent of active-duty servicemembers had witnessed instances of white supremacy or racist ideologies.

The full text of the letter is included below:

Dear Chairman Reed, Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Inhofe, and Ranking Member Rogers:

Thank you for your leadership in successfully passing H.R. 4350, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) off the House floor and bringing it to the Senate chamber for consideration. As passed by the House of Representatives, the initiatives advanced in this legislation have the capacity to transform the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) ability to address extremism in the Armed Forces. We respectfully request that the final bill include a strong provision that meets the threat of extremism in the military with the seriousness it warrants, to include: designating a senior official responsible for countering extremism, robust training, improved data collection and interagency sharing, and clarification of commanders’ authority to separate members of extremist organizations from the Armed Services. Such language will ensure an enduring structure for the Department’s leadership in combating extremist behaviors and preserving the oath of our servicemen and women. 

Behaviors that express support for extremist ideologies—which are the categorical antithesis of our military values—pose a grave and dangerous threat to unit cohesion, good order and discipline, and readiness. Earlier this year, the insurrection on the Capitol brought nation-wide attention to this problem. 12 percent of those who have been charged in the riot had military experience. Yet extremism in the military existed long before January 6th. A 2019 annual Military Times poll found that 36 percent of active-duty servicemembers had witnessed instances of white supremacy or racist ideologies.  It is clear that extremism in our Armed Forces, as within broader society, will continue to fester unless serious and enduring attention is dedicated to curbing it.

While the Department has issued directives to address the issue of extremism in the military, including a force-wide stand down,  recent reports about rioters reenlisting, interagency data sharing failures, and blanket statements made by military leaders that deny the reality of extremism in the ranks demonstrate that we need legislative action. Now is the time for Congress to join this fight and enact its own robust legislative solutions to give the Department the authorities and resources it needs to address these long-overdue issues. 

It is imperative the final bill comprehensively addresses the threat of extremism in the military with a robust provision that bolsters training through the insider threat program, improves data collection and interagency sharing, and creates a permanent institutional capacity to meet the challenge of extremism now and into the future. Additionally, the Department’s definition of extremism and prohibited activities must cover the broad range of manners by which extremist behaviors may be exhibited, including the behavior of being a member of an extremist organization. Such membership is contrary to good order and discipline and, ultimately, weakens our military’s readiness. Clarifying the Secretary of Defense’s authority to reject members of extremist organizations from service equips commanders with the tools they need to protect unit cohesion and ensures our service members' focus can stay on the fight in front of them on the battlefield. It is critical to our national security and a servicemember’s creed that the negotiators include this provision. 

As General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated recently, “from private to General, there’s no room for extremist behavior in the United States military.” We must take this threat seriously and not continue to let it linger unaddressed before meaningful action is taken.  It is incumbent upon the Department to root out from our ranks ideological movements that are inconsistent with military values; and it is equally incumbent upon the negotiators to provide commanders with the resources and necessary authorities they need to do so effectively. 

Thank you for your attention to this issue and support during negotiations. We look forward to voting on a final bill that includes these critical components, authorities, and resources, while also providing the Department the flexibility it needs to implement them.

Sincerely,

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