WASHINGTON (Agencies): A recent report by the Pentagon has raised alarms as 78 servicemen are suspected of advocating for the overthrow of the US government, while another 44 face suspicions of engaging in or supporting terrorism.
The annual report, released by the Defense Department inspector general, revealed a total of 183 allegations of extremism across all branches of the military, with the majority (130) identified in the Army, followed by 29 in the Air Force, and ten each in the Marines and Navy. The Space Force, counted separately from the Air Force, faced four accusations of extremism.
Additionally, the investigation uncovered 58 allegations of gang activity, with 68 cases cleared or deemed unsubstantiated by the time of the report’s release.
In a concerning shift, the Pentagon has pivoted its focus from left-wing extremist groups, considered a threat in the 60s and 70s, to right-wing anti-government groups, citing a surge in right-wing violence during the 1990s. Racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism was labeled the “most lethal threat” to America in the Pentagon’s annual threat assessment in March.
The report highlighted the ongoing trial of former National Guardsman Brandon Russell, founder of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, arrested for plotting to blow up the electrical grid in Baltimore. Russell, previously convicted for possessing explosives, has been classified as a domestic terrorist and faces substantial prison time.
Following the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021, which involved current and former military personnel, US Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd ordered a “stand-down” for extremism training across all military branches. However, reports suggest that the effectiveness of these measures is questionable, with military media outlets describing them as “symbolic.”
Law enforcement officials and experts emphasize the growing threat from far-right and white supremacist groups within the military. Reports also indicate that recruiters may be bypassing screening steps to filter out individuals with extremist or gang affiliations.
While the report acknowledges military officials taking action, including 135 allegations referred to military or civilian courts, it also notes that 109 cases were referred to another Defense Department organization or official. Of the 69 substantiated allegations, administrative actions were predominant, with 19 involuntary discharges, three counseling cases, 17 nonjudicial punishments, and two court-martialed cases. The findings underscore the need for continued efforts to address extremism within the ranks of the US military.