On Wednesday the U.S. military acknowledged it was unsure how to address white nationalism and other extremism within its ranks, and announced a 60-day pause of regular activity to address the issue.
In his confirmation hearings, Lloyd Austin, the military’s first Black defense secretary, underscored the need for the military to rid itself of “racists and extremists.”
The stand-down was ordered after current and former military servicemembers were found to have participated in the siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“Even though the numbers might be small, they may not be as small as we would like them to be, or we believe them to be,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said of the prevalence of troops with extremists views, ties or activities. “And that no matter what it is, it is not an insignificant problem.”
“It wasn’t a blithe, ‘Hey, just go talk to your people,’” Kirby said of Austin’s direction to the service secretaries and Joint Chiefs. “He was very clear that he wants commands to take the necessary time. And I didn’t hear him be overly proscriptive about that … to speak with troops about the scope of this problem, and certainly to get a sense from them about what they’re seeing at their level.”