Pentagon officials held a press conference Thursday saying the Defense Department will not tolerate extremist and white supremacist behavior in military ranks. Photo by Quinn Hurt/U.S. Department of Defense
Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Pentagon officials said Thursday that the Defense Department has "no place" for those espousing extremist views, and is doing everything it can to eliminate extremism in the department.
"DOD policy expressly prohibits military personnel from actively advocating supremacist, extremist or criminal gang doctrine, ideology or causes," said Gary Reed, the director for defense intelligence and counterintelligence, law enforcement and security, at a press conference.
According to Reed, all military personnel, including those in reserve branches, have undergone background investigations and are subject to continuous evaluation.
Reed's announcement comes two days after the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a memo calling last week's events in Washington, D.C. "a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process."
Reports have since surfaced that some members of the mob who broke into the Capitol -- including Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran killed during the siege -- were military veterans.
And investigators are now trying to determine whether any active-duty military members were present.
A Pentagon official not named in the DoD's press release said the military works "very closely" with the FBI to identify any current or former military personnel engaged in domestic extremist behaviors.
The official also said some individuals are seduced by violent militia behavior, and "racially and ethnically motivated" -- and that the rise in extremism in the general population also affects the general population.
"There has been a resurgence of white supremacy and white nationalist activity over the past five or six years," the official said. "The 2017 rally in Charlottesville was probably the largest gathering of white supremacy in this country in decades."
The official also alluded to studies showing that since 2001, right-wing extremists are responsible for more deaths in the United States than any other extremist group.
According to the Pentagon, Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller has ordered a review of all policies, laws or regulations concerning participation by service members in extremist organizations.
Even before the siege on the Capitol, the Department of Defense had launched a series of diversity initiatives and efforts to root out offensive symbols and names from its ranks.
Days before the attack, the Air Force announced it would review official and unofficial unit emblems and other symbology to root out offensive language or imagery.
In July Army leadership considered renaming some bases that were named in honor of Confederate generations, a notion that was ultimately incorporated into the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense spending bill.
President Donald Trump threatened to veto the NDAA in part due to the language about renaming military installations, but the bill ultimately passed with a veto-proof majority.