Pentagon watchdog to probe how military screens applicants for extremism

The Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Inspector General will be examining how the military screens applicants for extremist behavior. 

“The objective of this audit is to determine whether Military Service recruiting organizations screened applicants for supremacist, extremist, and criminal gang behavior, according to DoD and Military Service policies and procedures,” a memo from the watchdog, dated Jan. 3, states.

The audit is slated to begin this month and will be performed in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

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The Pentagon itself began investigating the issue of extremism in the military last year following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

More than 80 defendants charged in connection with the riot had ties to the U.S. military, CBS News reported in December, most of whom were veterans. 

After the riot, Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden's first year: A mirage of gender parity Defense & National Security — Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on high alert Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on higher alert over Russia-Ukraine tensions MORE ordered a forcewide “stand-down” to address the issue.  

The Pentagon in April took steps toward screening procedures to weed out extremists that included the military services updating their accession screening questionnaires to gather specific information about current or extremist behavior.

The DOD issued a new set of rules last month meant to combat extremism in its ranks. Among the rules, service members cannot actively engage in extremist activities and could be punished for advocating for extremist content online.

Military members aren’t explicitly prohibited from membership in extremist organizations under the new guidance. However, advocating to overthrow the government, raising money for extremist groups, and “liking” or reposting extremist content online is not allowed.