There is growing concern about the extent to which U.S. military and law enforcement personnel have perpetrated—and been victims of—domestic terrorism. In March 2021, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) sent a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees which concluded: “DoD is facing a threat from domestic extremists (DE), particularly those who espouse white supremacy or white nationalist ideologies.” It continued that some domestic extremist networks “(a) actively attempt to recruit military personnel into their group or cause, (b) encourage their members to join the military, or (c) join, themselves, for the purpose of acquiring combat and tactical experience.” In 2020, the FBI alerted the DoD that it had opened 143 criminal investigations involving current or former service members—of which nearly half (68) were related to domestic extremism. Most investigations apparently involved veterans, some of whom had unfavorable discharge records. The January 6, 2021, events at the U.S. Capitol raised additional concerns, since one reservist, one National Guard member, and at least 31 veterans were charged with conspiracy or other crimes. In addition, at least four police officers and three former officers faced federal charges for their involvement in storming the Capitol.
In response to these developments, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III pledged to intensify the DoD’s effort to combat extremism in the military, remarking, “It concerns me to think that anyone wearing the uniform of a soldier, or a sailor, an airman, Marine, or Guardian or Coast Guardsman would espouse these [extremist] sorts of beliefs, let alone act on them. But they do. Some of them still do.” Secretary Austin also signed a memo directing commanding officers and supervisors to conduct a one-day “stand-down” to discuss extremism in the ranks with their personnel. In addition, the DoD launched an investigation in January 2021 to determine the extent to which the department and military have implemented policies and procedures that prohibit advocacy and participation related to white supremacist, extremist, and criminal gang activity by active-duty personnel.