ANALYSIS – In what many call a politicized and ideological witch hunt masquerading as a counter ‘extremism’ effort, the Pentagon’s Countering Extremist Activity Working Group has delayed the release of its long-awaited report.
Despite the contrived partisan urgency to make this an issue to hammer conservatives and supporters of former President Trump, it’s still unclear when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be briefed on the report, and the Pentagon has yet to set a date for when it will be made public.
The question is why?
As Politico’s NatSec Daily reports:
Austin first announced the establishment of the Countering Extremist Activity Working Group in an April memo, ordering that its report should be “provided … no later than 90 days from its first meeting on or about April 14, 2021.” More than four months after Austin’s deadline, however, the secretary still has not seen the final product.
Kirby defended the delay to NatSec Daily, saying in a statement: “We appreciate the work stakeholders across the enterprise have put in this important effort. That work is undergoing some additional reviews and coordination. This is an important enough issue to the Secretary and the Department that we want to get it right, and to move forward in the most deliberate way possible.”
The wait for the working group’s report conflicts with the sense of urgency the Biden administration has sought to instill about the dangers of domestic violent extremists since Jan. 6 — when a number of active-duty service members and veterans allegedly participated in the storming of the Capitol.
This exaggerated “domestic extremism” threat has become the Left’s and Democrats number one boogeyman in 2021. Trying to show that it is a major danger in the US military has been key to their narrative.
The Pentagon’s inability to define the threat, much less quantify it has many experts arguing that the danger is fairly small, and the numbers show it. Delaying the release of this report even longer, adds fuel to this speculation. It has also angered proponents of the narrative, as NatSec Daily notes:
The report’s hold-up has also frustrated Rep. ANTHONY BROWN (D-Md.), a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel who has called for tougher measures by Congress to curb military extremism. “If you really care about the men and women who serve, you don’t delay on extremism in the ranks.”
Following the unarmed riot at the Capitol, which partisans and ideologues insist on misnaming an “insurrection,” the Defense Department has moved to root out so-called “extremists” in the U.S. military, with Austin directing commanding officers and supervisors in February to conduct a one-day “stand-down” to discuss the issue with their personnel.
Additionally the department sponsored a RAND Corporation study published in September that put forward a framework for helping commanders reduce the risk of military extremism. But the dangers of this effort being politicized, and partisan, are clear.
Many argue this effort must not become a mechanism to purge conservatives, Christians or Trump supporters from the military.
NatSec Daily reported that:
TODD HELMUS, another coauthor of the October RAND study, said the report should recommend implementing “a very strong education and awareness campaign” for incoming troops and seek to “manage perceptions” of the antiextremism efforts, “so this does not become a political lightning rod.”
Helmus also told NatSec Daily that the Pentagon should institute some type of “off-ramping intervention,” though he was pessimistic the working group would back such a proposal. “There needs to be some way of helping people who they do identify as being extremist, and help them get out,” he said.
All three RAND experts downplayed the significance of the working group’s report being delayed, but Brown, the Maryland congressman, said he was “absolutely” concerned by the Pentagon’s slow pace, and he argued the Defense Department was incapable of addressing this national security threat without congressional action.
Brown, a member of the Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, sponsored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would establish an “Office of Countering Extremism” at the Pentagon.
That, however, is a whole different fight. NatSec Daily reports that: “The White House opposed the congressman’s measure “because it would impose onerous and overly specific training and data collection requirements and would foreclose other options to address extremism.” ADN