Pentagon report highlights threat of White supremacy and extremism in military


Photo by Tasos Katopodis via Getty Images

The arrival of the US National Guard at the Capitol building on January 12, 2021.

   Following the storming of the Capitol building in Washington D.C., the federal government investigated extremist groups in the United States. The Pentagon report released on the research shows a disturbing amount of active White supremacists in the military. 

   Domestic extremist groups often recruit members who currently serve or have served in the military because they have combat experience. Similarly, many domestic terrorists will join the military specifically to acquire combat skills and specialized knowledge. 

   The Pentagon report does not show that the number of extremist members in the military is growing, but it did highlight the danger of even a few domestic terrorists infiltrating the ranks. People with military affiliations and extremist beliefs are proven threats to US national security because they can execute high-impact attacks. 

   There is currently no rule or regulation requiring extremist military members to be discharged from service, excluding the Navy. In fact, there are reports of many military members openly expressing racists beliefs and going unpunished. 

   If someone is found to be a member of an organized group, they will be demoted or discharged. A former Marine was discharged in 2018 for participating in a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division. The division’s co-founder was said to have served in the National Army Guard in Florida. 

   Several members, including the co-founder of a group known as the American Identity Movement (AIM), were identified as being military or reserve members. According to the Pentagon Report, some of the members were demoted or discharged. 

   Many of the rioters at the attacks at the Capitol in January were discovered to be current or former military members. At least 27 of these rioters who are associated with the military are facing federal charges. As a result, President Biden’s new defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, is focusing on comforting the issue of extremism in the US.  

   At his first Pentagon conference, Austin stated, “I expect for the numbers to be small, but quite frankly, they’ll probably be a little bit larger than most of us would guess. But I would just say that, you know, small numbers in this case can have an outsized impact.”

   The first step taken to address this issue by Austin was issuing a military-wide stand-down within 60 days to give commanders a chance to discuss the issue of extremism with their troops. The report suggests the FBI conduct investigations into recruits that could be connected to extremist groups or hold these kinds of beliefs. 

   Another important issue is the ability of recruiters and investigators to identify domestic extremists and White supremacists. According to the Pentagon report, the best way to do this is to watch for identifying symbols on clothing, jewelry, or tattoos. Some are obvious, such as a swastika, but others can be more obscure and harder to recognize.