Extremist movements pose many problems to society, from spreading hate and intolerance to engaging in significant and deadly violence. It is particularly problematic when adherents of extreme causes are able to persist in key institutions dedicated to protecting the people of the United States, institutions such as emergency response units, law enforcement and the military.
Of these institutions, the U.S. military is the largest, with more than two million active duty and reserve personnel currently serving in the various branches. ADL’s Center on Extremism (COE) has closely tracked the issue of extremists in military ranks and for more than 20 years has regularly identified serving extremists and reported them to the military for investigation and action. The COE has also helped military recruiters identify extremist tattoos and provided assistance to the military investigative agencies (CID, NCIS, and OSI).
Based on its longstanding work in this area, COE estimates that the number of extremists in the military—whether they joined as extremists or became attracted to an extremist cause at some point during their service—is small compared to the total number of men and women serving. However, even small numbers of unchecked extremists in the ranks can cause harm and problems far disproportionate to their number