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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Calls for 60-Day ‘Stand Down’ to Discuss Extremism in the Military

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday ordered U.S. military commanders at every single unit across the force to focus for the next 60 days on discussing extremism with service members.

“Today, I met with senior leaders to discuss extremism in the military. As a first step, I’m ordering a stand down to occur over the next 60 days so each service, each command and each unit can have a deeper conversation about this issue. It comes down to leadership. Everyone’s,” he tweeted Wednesday.

Today, I met with senior leaders to discuss extremism in the military. As a first step, I’m ordering a stand down to occur over the next 60 days so each service, each command and each unit can have a deeper conversation about this issue. It comes down to leadership. Everyone’s. pic.twitter.com/wbC21hdHaV

— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) February 4, 2021

Austin, the department’s first black defense secretary, had vowed during his confirmation hearing on January 19, 2021, to “rid our ranks of racists and extremists.”

Pentagon officials say they are not sure yet how big the problem of extremism in the military is.

According to the New York Times, the FBI notified the Department of Defense it had opened criminal investigations involving 143 current or former service members in 2020. Of those, 68 were related to domestic extremism cases, and one-quarter of those were associated with white nationalism.

There are approximately 1.3 million active-duty members and reservists in the U.S. military.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby cited the protests at the Capitol on January 6 to contest the results of the 2020 presidential election, where some pro-Trump supporters broke into the Capitol building and engaged in violence with police.

He said the presence of veterans and active-duty service members at the protests was a “wake-up call” for the Pentagon.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) called the stand down a “political litmus test” for the military.

“Biden’s Defense Secretary ordered a 60 day service-wide stand down to address ‘extremism’ within the US Military. This is nothing but a political litmus test of our brave men & women. It is obscene & dangerous to use soldiers who risk their lives for America as political pawns,” Boebert tweeted.

“We can hardly be surprised by these political litmus tests given Biden’s political vetting of the 26,000 National Guard troops in DC for his inauguration. I spoke up, as did many others, warning that would open up a very dangerous precedent & less than a month later here it is,” she added.

We can hardly be surprised by these political litmus tests given Biden’s political vetting of the 26,000 National Guard troops in DC for his inauguration.

I spoke up, as did many others, warning that would open up a very dangerous precedent & less than a month later here it is.

— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) February 4, 2021

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