On Thursday, the Huffington Post reported that the Senate-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act — the annual spending bill to fund the military and national security services — quietly gutted a House-passed amendment that would have encouraged officials to screen prospective military enlistees for white nationalist ideology.
The amendment, authored by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) has been rewritten to direct the Department of Defense to explore how to screen recruits for “extremist and gang-related activity” — with the words “white nationalism” cut altogether.
It is unclear which senators pushed for the removal. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who chairs the Armed Services Committee, declined to comment on the matter.
The U.S. government has been aware that white supremacist violence is a growing threat for at least a decade, when a Department of Homeland Security official issued a 2009 report — attacked by conservative commentators — on the danger posed by domestic right-wing and racial terrorism. But in recent years it has become clear that these groups have also infiltrated military and law enforcement agencies, both to shape government policy and to gain easy access to weapons and combat training.
Several recent high-profile cases have made clear the dangers, including a Coast Guard lieutenant arrested after allegedly stockpiling firearms to assassinate several politicians and create a white ethnostate, and nearly a dozen members of the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Texas and Minnesota National Guards working with Identity Evropa (now the American Identity Movement), a white supremacist group that helped plan the deadly neo-Nazi riot in Charlottesville, Virginia.
And the scale of the problem could be much worse. In 2017, a poll by the Military Times found that nearly 25 percent of servicemembers have encountered white nationalists in the ranks — and that a plurality see white nationalism as more dangerous than the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to this growing problem which puts our national security and the safety of the brave men and women serving our country in jeopardy,” Aguilar told the Huffington Post. “It’s disappointing that Senate Republicans disagree.”