Defense Secretary Austin orders one-day military ‘stand down’ for discussions on far-right extremism

Lloyd Austin, the first Black U.S. defense secretary, instructs staff to hold talks in hopes of finding solutions to address far-right extremism in military ranks

The newly appointed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is wasting little time addressing issues of far-right extremism within the U.S. military.

Austin issued a memorandum on Friday, calling for a one-day “Stand-down to address Extremism in the Ranks.”

Austin, the nation’s very first Black Defense Secretary, addressed the memo to Department of Defense (DOD) field activity directors and senior Pentagon leadership to choose a day to stop all activity to talk to servicemen and women about “extremist or dissident ideologies.”

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 03: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attends a congressional tribute to the late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick who lies in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on February 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. Officer Sicknick died as a result of injuries he sustained during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He will lie in honor until February 3 and then be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo by Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

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“I am directing commanding officers and supervisors at all levels to select a date within the next 60 days to conduct a one-day ‘stand-down’ on this issue with their personnel.” The memo stated that during each “stand-down” that topics of discussion will include listing impermissible behaviors and the importance of the oath of office.

“Service members, DoD civilian employees, and all those who support our mission, deserve an environment free of discrimination, hate, and harassment,” Austin wrote.

“You should use this opportunity to listen as well to the concerns, experiences, and possible solutions that the men and women of the workforce may proffer in these stand-down sessions,” he added.

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There has been some growing concern following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Several of rioters who had been charged were current or former military servicemen and servicewomen. As previously reported by TheGrio, at least 27 of the first 140 people arrested during the riots in January had served in the military. That accounts for approximately 20% of the arrests.

A Military Times survey indicated that “evidence of white supremacist and racist ideologies in the military” had been seen by 36% of active-duty readers in 2019.

According to NPR, Austin, along with Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had each met with service chiefs as well as civilian leaders to discuss the problem of far-right extremism and white supremacy.

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