Military could better tackle extremism in the ranks with existing programs, report says
The military could better combat extremism in the ranks simply by using programs that already exist, according to a recently released study by researchers at a Washington, DC-based think tank.
“Historically, the military has struggled to identify and manage personnel whose beliefs could lead to future problems,” wrote the authors of the report, which was produced by Rand Corp.
The most recent and blatant examples of extremists in the ranks include at least 32 veterans and one active duty member believed to have been part of the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6. groups with extreme views or agendas also continue to emerge. The Pentagon also acknowledged that extremist groups were actively trying to recruit military personnel.
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The report’s authors argue that not only the Defense Ministry should use the programs it has to deal with the military in the early stages of extremist tendencies, but tailor them to groups that target the military.
“You want to understand the landscape and then tailor the programs accordingly so that you can get ahead of this type of activity before it gets out of hand,” Marek Posard, one of the study’s authors, told Military.com .
Posard explained that “everything from mental health care providers and chaplains to family readiness groups” can be used as part of this effort.
“Military organizations do not exist independently of society at large and so… you will start to see the same types of things happening in the military,” he added.
The goal, according to Posard and his fellow researchers, is to intervene early – ideally before law enforcement has to intervene. The report emphasizes “community-based” approaches that focus on the entire military or entire groups of extremists rather than on individuals.
Posard also noted that there is a great need to know more about how the military is recruited and the true scope of the problem.
“There really is a need for data collection to capture and understand these trends at different types of touchpoints,” he explained. “You can have actual activities that are clearly illegal, but there are also other types of protests and initial states. These are more difficult to measure.”
The document also notes that “the military could better take advantage of existing violence prevention programs to prevent the military from becoming involved in extremist groups.”
So far, while each branch has publicly condemned any extremist activity, dealing with individual cases has been more difficult. Some measures, such as tighter entry controls, appear to be paying off. However, in other cases, officers have been allowed to remain in the military and continue to work while lengthy investigations or legal proceedings continue.
Related: Pentagon announces tougher extremism screens for new military recruits
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