Despite decades of efforts by the Pentagon to end extremism within its ranks, a new Associated Press investigation found that "racism and extremism remain an ongoing concern in the military."
"The investigation shows the new guidelines do not address ongoing disparities in military justice under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the legal code that governs the U.S. armed forces. Numerous studies, including a report last year from the Government Accountability Office, show Black and Hispanic service members were disproportionately investigated and court-martialed," the AP reported. "The AP investigation also shows the military’s judicial system has no explicit category for bias-motivated crimes – something the federal government, at least 46 states, and the District of Columbia have on the books – making it difficult to quantify crimes prompted by prejudice."
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin instituted a one-day stand-down in February to address extremism.
"The new National Defense Authorization Act signed into law by President Biden on Monday directs the Secretary of Defense to make a recommendation to Congress within 180 days if a new statute is needed to address violent extremism, but does not address hate crimes or racial disparities in military law," the AP reported. "The new Pentagon rules do not outright ban service members from being members of extremist organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, Oath Keepers, or other right-wing and white nationalist groups. The regulations, like the previous ones, only prohibit 'active participation,' in such groups, a murky policy that civil rights organizations have raised concerns about for years."
The Ku Klux Klan, in particular, has been a problem for the Pentagon.
"In the 1970s, extremism in the military gained national attention when the Ku Klux Klan was found to be operating openly at Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine Corps base in southern California. White Marine klansmen openly distributed racist literature on the base, pasted KKK stickers on barracks doors, and hid illegal weapons in their rooms," the AP reported. "In June of 1986, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klanwatch Project issued one of the first of many warnings to the DOD about white supremacists in its ranks and urged then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to bar active duty service members from belonging to Ku Klux Klan factions. The center at that time alleged it had evidence, including photos, of active-duty U.S. Marines who had participated in the Confederate Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a North Carolina-based Klan faction that changed its name last year to the White Patriot Party."
Pentagon officials did not respond to dozens of questions from the AP on how it plans to implement the new guidelines.
Read the full report.