Austin ordered the Department of Defense (DoD) on Friday to address the threat of extremism in the ranks of the military by devising updated screening methods for recruits, a revision of the department’s definition of extremism and efforts to prevent veterans from being drawn into violent movements.
Austin required the DoD to provide training to troops preparing to retire to make them aware they could be targets for recruitment by extremist groups and to work with federal agencies to enable veterans the chance “to report any potential contact with an extremist group should they choose to,” the memo said.
In the order, Austin called for a “countering extremism working group” to oversee the new measures and look at further steps to confront the problem, including possible changes to the military’s legal code, how to track potentially concerning behavior by troops, screening social media or other publicly available data for security background checks, and other reforms.
Austin also commissioned a Pentagon study of extremism in the US armed forces that would seek to gather more insight about “the scope of the problem.”
A number of active and veteran US military forces took part in the deadly January 6 attack on Capitol Hill.
Law enforcement, intelligence and military agencies have blamed poor data and each other for failing to pre-empt the deadly attack.