by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A report the Department of Defense commissioned to study extremism in the United States military found that there is little evidence it’s a disproportionate problem among service members, findings that throw cold water on Biden administration officials’ claims of significant radicalism within the military.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin commissioned the report, which the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) released last month, in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot after it was reported that a number of participants had military records. The institute conducted its research from June 2021 through June 2022.
“IDA’s review found no evidence that the number of violent extremists in the military is disproportionate to the number of violent extremists in the United States as a whole,” the institute wrote in the report’s executive summary, “although there is some indication that the rate of participation by former service members is slightly higher and may be growing. IDA also found no evidence of violent extremist behavior by DOD civilians.”
Though the report said that even a small number of violent extremists with military training or connections could pose a threat to the country, it said that service members were confused about what constitutes prohibited extremist activities. This confusion poses the potential for division and polarization within the military, according to the report, which could pose “a greater risk than the radicalization of a few service members.”
Just over 10 percent of those who were charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot were veterans, researchers noted in the report. Fewer than 10 of those people, however, were serving in the military at the time of the riot.”
Anecdotal accounts of military participation in violent extremist events, like the events of Jan. 6, 2021, draw public attention and may create the impression that the military has ‘an extremism problem,’ the report read. “Such accounts magnify the actions of a few and provide little information on the overall scope of the problem.”