The Pentagon wants a new ‘reg’ for prosecuting extremism

The Pentagon wants a new ‘reg’ for prosecuting extremism

The Defense Department has been rolling out initiatives to address the threat of domestic extremism serving in uniform since early this year, and now its next budget request hopes to throw some money behind them.

The proposal released Friday includes $30.8 million to enhance technology and manpower for training, screening and policy updates, including a big one: “the development of a punitive regulation on extremist activities.”

There aren’t further details available on the effort yet, DoD spokeswoman Lisa Lawrence told Military Times, but the line in the budget leaves the possibilities open.

Brandon Russell, at the time a private first class in the Florida Army National Guard, displays his Atomwaffen tattoo after his May, 2017 arrest for possessing bomb making materials. Russell was the co-founder of the Atomwaffen neo-Nazi group. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office).

While commands can currently charge service members for espousing extremist views, or participating in extremist plots, through misconduct regulations in both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and a current DoD instruction covering extremist activities, this year’s renewed discussion about extremism has included calls for new, concrete guidelines and tools for commanders to hold troops accountable.

Those millions in funding will also go to improving “vetting protocols and screening of public available electronic information (aka social media) and develop and deploy an Enterprise Case Management tracking tool for tracking activities of concern.”

Maj. Jeff Poole stands at attention during his September 2019 promotion ceremony at Fort Benning, Ga. The Army has recommended Poole be discharged after his racist, violent online activity came under investigation. (98th Training Division Facebook)

A Pentagon spokesman recently refuted a report that the department was pursuing a contract with a private firm to troll social media for questionable service member activity on a mass scale, clarifying that social media is already part of existing screening and background check protocols.

Another $9.1 million will go to combating extremism and insider threats, according to budget documents, in the spirit of the findings of a report done after an attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, by a Saudi Arabian pilot trainee. That will include “enhanced federal capabilities in reporting; tracking extremism activities; and improved DoD accession processes.”

Many of these initiatives fall under an extremism working group that first met in April. So far, the group has been tasks with facilitating a study to take a look at the prevalence of extreme ideologies in the services, as well as to develop an official department definition of extremism, and to update training for transitioning troops, who are often targeted by domestic extremist groups.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.