- The final version of Congress’ yearly defense bill expunges seven of eight provisions in the House-passed version earlier this year mandating Pentagon reviews of extremism in the U.S., including in the armed forces.
- Opponents argue the provisions gave credibility to a false problem of extremism in the military and distracted from more important issues.
- “I opposed a slew of provisions pushing a false narrative of rampant extremism within the ranks of our military – the money spent on making useless reports can be better spent improving quality of life for servicemembers,” Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) strips out several Democrat-backed provisions from an earlier House version addressing the supposed problem of extremism in the U.S. military and the country at large.
Democrat-sponsored provisions in the House bill centered around requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to report on the threat terrorist organizations, white supremacist gangs and other criminal groups pose to the U.S. public and military, CQ Roll Call first reported. In the end, lawmakers opted to scrap or severely undercut the amendments amid widespread Republican opposition to DOD involvement in anti-domestic extremism pursuits. (RELATED: Congress Battles With The Army For Gender-Neutral Fitness Standards)
“I am opposed to anything that distracts our warfighters from the job at hand,” Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “I opposed a slew of provisions pushing a false narrative of rampant extremism within the ranks of our military – the money spent on making useless reports can be better spent improving quality of life for servicemembers.”
One provision, introduced by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, mandated a Pentagon-led interagency report on the “nature and extent” of danger posed from domestic terrorism and white supremacy-motivated violence. Two others from Democratic Reps Kathy Manning of North Carolina and Brad Schneider of Illinois required periodic reports on antisemitism, white supremacy, neo-Nazi elements and other forms of violent extremism, including the danger they pose to the military.
The time and funding required to identify and prevent extremism in the military do not correspond to the actual risk of radicalization among servicemembers, some lawmakers argued, according to CQ Roll Call. A preliminary report in December 2021 found that fewer than 100 servicemembers out of 2.1 million active and reserve personnel received disciplinary action for extremism in the year prior.
“Racism or bigotry of any form have no place in the armed forces, but these proposed reports imply a systemic problem that does not exist,” Republican Rep. Mike Garcia of California told the DCNF.
Lee expressed disappointment at the failure of her amendment. “We as a Congress should put aside any thought that it is a personal affront to our constituents or to our beliefs,” she told CQ Roll Call.
Three other scrapped amendments involved ongoing efforts to implement counter-extremism policies, such as including whether a member of the armed services was discharged for extremism in personnel records, but Congress eliminated them to avoid redundancy.
The final compromise agreement excluded all but one article mandating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to submit an assessment of how the government uses social media accounts to vet personnel for concerning behavior and ties to extremism.
Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma “supports the position of the negotiated agreement on extremism-related provisions, many of which were duplicative or presupposed extremist activity by all servicemembers,” an aide told the DCNF.
The House passed the final bill on Dec. 8, and it awaits confirmation from the Senate as early as this week.
In the wake of the siege of the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, DOD officials re-emphasized zero tolerance for service members or employees who engage in extremism, white supremacy or belong to organizations that look to overturn the U.S. Constitution: https://t.co/RRN3UnOQ3U
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) January 18, 2021
Lawmakers and experts who promoted the amendments warn that just one violent individual motivated by an extreme ideology can perpetrate outsized harm, according to CQ Roll Call.
“Extremism has no place in our military, and I am a strong proponent of Department of Defense efforts to combat hateful ideologies and extremism in the ranks,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith told CQ Roll Call in a statement.
In a report submitted alongside its original version of the defense bill, the Senate Armed Services Committee urged an “immediate” end to DOD counter-extremism programs in July. The committee voted 14-12 in favor of the non-binding amendment, with all Democrats voting against and one independent senator joining the Republican bloc, CQ Roll Call reported.
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