Last Updated on August 13, 2021
The Biden administration’s Office of the Secretary of Defense prepared a 13-page document to guide military leaders during the 2021 “Stand-Down” discussion sessions about the threat of “Extremism” in the military. That document (PRESENTED HERE) urged military service members to report any “concerning behaviors” exhibited by their fellow service members. The document disputes the idea that military members are protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech to the extent that civilians are protected, noting that some speech in the military “may be restricted” and “will have consequences.” The document explicitly discusses “white supremacists,” “domestic protests” (in a clear reference to the January 6 pro-Trump protest at the Capitol), and threatens criminal penalties for military members.
Here are some of the “Suggested Talking Points” for unit commanders and supervisors: “On February 5, 2021, the Secretary of Defense directed unit commanders and supervisors at all levels to conduct a leadership “stand down” within 60 days to address the issues of extremist ideology in our ranks…Actively espousing ideologies that encourage discrimination, hate, and harassment against others will not be tolerated within our (unit/command/etc). I expect the core principles of dignity and mutual respect to guide the actions of the personnel in this unit/organization at all times, to include our conversations here today…The vast majority of the men and women in the United States military and those who serve the Department of Defense as civilian employees perform their duties and responsibilities with integrity, and do not support racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists, including white supremacists, and other domestic terrorists such as anti-government violent extremists. However, recent events have shown that we must be ever vigilant in our efforts
to identify and combat such ideology within the ranks and organizations.”
The quotes in this document are shocking, and we have compiled some of these quotes for you below (emphasis added): “The first is to review the meaning of the Oath we each took on becoming a member of the United States Military or a Department of Defense civilian employee; The second is to review impermissible behaviors – those actions prohibited under applicable law or under DoD, Military Department or Military Service policy; We’ll spend some time reviewing the responsibilities on us all for reporting to our chain of command when we observe or learn of prohibited actions, or those that cause us concern as “signs” of potential future problems; and, We’ll finish with listening sessions – the Secretary wants your feedback on what actions he should consider in combating this issue, and I want it too.”
“Although Service members enjoy the right to free speech protected by the First Amendment, the unique character of the military community and of the military mission requires a balancing of those rights with the important purpose of the military. In fact, the Supreme Court of the United States noted…For all of us, Service members and DoD civilian employees alike, who enjoy the great privilege of serving in our nation’s defense, we recognize that due to the unique character of the military community and mission, speech that interferes with or prevents the orderly accomplishment of the mission or presents a clear danger to loyalty, discipline, mission, or morale of the troops may be restricted under some circumstances. Similarly, speech in the workplace that interferes with the mission, espouses extremist or discriminatory doctrine, or is disrespectful and harmful to colleagues, will have consequences.”
“The DoD has a compelling interest in preventing the advent and spread of hate groups and activities within the Department; in guarding against illegal discrimination; in fostering a military that is politically-neutral and disciplined; and in recruiting and sustaining an all-volunteer force of sufficient strength and quality to provide for the Nation’s security and to sustain that security over time.”
“You can always seek advice from your chain of command, supervisors, public affairs, or the legal office before making public statements or publishing materials. Whether it’s a letter to an editor or a social media post, if you have questions about what you want to say, your chain of command, supervisors, public affairs, or legal office can also help you ensure you’re not violating regulations”
“Prohibited Activities…Dignity and Respect: The Department of Defense places the highest importance on treating all personnel with dignity and respect, in an inclusive environment, free from impermissible discrimination, harassment, and hate. And as such, DoD policy expressly prohibits Service members from actively advocating supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology and causes”
“Indicators: Participation may lead to violence. Some indicators of individual escalation toward extremism include clear identification with or support for extremist or hate-based ideology; making or attempting to make contact with extremist groups; the possession and/or distribution of extremist literature or paraphernalia; and threatening, intimidating, harassing, or harming of others consistent with extremism or hate-based ideology. While such conduct may not constitute “active participation,” such signs offer an indicator for commands, prompting action and intervention that can avoid active participation down the road.”
“Duty to Reject: Service members and DoD civilian employees must reject participation in such activities. With regard to Service members, Department policy makes clear that commanders have the authority to employ the full range of administrative and disciplinary actions, including involuntary separation, dismissal, or even appropriate criminal prosecution against those who actively engage in such activity. Supervisors and leaders of all ranks must also take action to maintain good order and discipline and root out extremism.”
“Responsibility To Report…Focus: Procedures For Reporting Suspect Behaviors…Reporting: If you observe a co-worker exhibiting concerning behaviors, you have a responsibility to report it through the chain of command or supervision to your local security manager, and/or directly to the Insider Threat program office. Report issues of imminent threats or activity that may constitute criminal conduct to local law enforcement immediately. If you observe a Service member actively participating in an extremist organization in a manner that you suspect violates the UCMJ or the Department of Defense’s, a Military Department’s, or Service’s extremism policies, report the Service member to a supervisor, commander, or military criminal investigator. Extremist behavior by Department personnel that does not rise to the level of a violation of the UCMJ or other applicable laws, or the Department of Defense’s, Military Department’s, or Military Service’s extremism policies may still be a concern under the U.S. Government’s national security adjudicative guidelines, used to assess eligibility for access to classified information or to hold a sensitive position…Statements showing association with violent extremist behavior by Department personnel or contractors may also be considered a risk factor by the Insider Threat Program. If you observe any behaviors of concern (including extremist activity or anomalous behavior out of character) within your unit, ranks, or organization, report it through your chain of command or supervision, local
security manager, or directly to the component insider threat program office.“
“Failure to Report: Failure to report concerning behaviors removes an opportunity for the Department to help a Service member or civilian employee, and could place themselves, the Department, and others at risk. A report of concerning behavior does not necessarily result in punitive actions against an individual…Remember, failure to report has a negative impact on the unit or organization. Command climate suffers, groups become polarized, corrosive behaviors undermine confidence in the unit, and readiness is degraded.”
In the “Case Studies” section of “Examples To Illustrate Problematic Behaviors,” all of the examples are about alleged Nazis or neo-Nazis and the military cites the white-identity group Identity Evropa by name.
The document states: “The increased level of domestic protests around the country in the past several months has emboldened some violent extremist groups to take more aggressive anti-government and racially motivated actions. These groups are known to actively target current and former military personnel. In light of current events, the Secretary wants DoD personnel at all levels to understand the threat and be trained and educated to take appropriate actions when they see indicators of extremism…We are seeing an increase in concerning behavior. We believe this is based on societal increases, but there’s also an increase in the reporting of suspect behavior. We are actively tracking down these leads and identifying any other associations with these sorts of groups. That’s why we need all DoD personnel to report concerning behaviors appropriately so we can thoroughly review all credible reports…DoD is examining a scalable means of implementing social media screening in conjunction with background investigations. Furthermore, the FBI currently screens social media for extremism and criminal activity”