Austin Signs ‘Stand-Down’ Memo To Tackle Extremism In The Military

Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the ongoing U.S. military operations to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 16, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, prepares to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 16, 2015. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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February 6, 2021 3:24 p.m.

In an effort to root out extremism within the nation’s military ranks, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed a memo on Friday that directed commanding officers and supervisors to hold a one-day stand down on the issue.

The Department of Defense announced in a news release on Friday that Austin had formally signed the memo, which will require commanding officers and supervisors at all levels to dedicate one day in the next two months to leading discussions centering on “the importance of our oath of office; a description of impermissible behaviors; and procedures for reporting suspected, or actual, extremist behaviors.”

The single-day stand-down order comes after revelations that some current service members and veterans had been arrested  for their involvement in the deadly riot on the U.S. Capitol last month.

“We will not tolerate actions that go against the fundamental principles of the oath we share, including actions associated with extremist or dissident ideologies,” the memo said. “Service members, DoD civilian employees, and all those who support our mission, deserve an environment free of discrimination, hate, and harassment. It is incumbent upon each of us to ensure that actions associated with these corrosive behaviors are prevented.”

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NPR pointed out that two weeks after the Capitol insurrection, roughly a dozen National Guard troops were dismissed from inauguration duties — at least two of whom for alleged links to extremism.

The stand-down order was first announced by the Pentagon on Wednesday

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at that time that a key reason for the action was that “we don’t know the full breadth and depth” of links between extremism and military service members. 

President Joe Biden during the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday had also called for a confrontation of the “political extremism” that played a part in the Capitol riot.

Austin’s Friday memo appeared to acknowledge that the stand-down was just the first step in a “concerted effort to better educate ourselves and our people about the scope of this problem and to develop sustainable ways to eliminate the corrosive effects that extremist ideology and conduct have on the workforce.”

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