The military has next to nothing to show for an effort launched more than two years ago to root out the threat of extremism in U.S. armed forces in response to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, the USA Today reports. The proposed changes hoped to divert extremists from the recruiting process, weed out extremists in the ranks, and build an education initiative to teach veterans about the extremist groups that court them. The military offered almost no answers about what has actually happened to enact these goals, and an internal study on the scope of the military’s extremism problem has never been released. If this sweeping effort ends with no measurable impact, that’s “a tragic outcome,” said Northwestern University historian Kathleen Belew.
Affiliation with the U.S. military is the “single strongest” predictor of violent extremism in America, according to a report from researchers with the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, or START. The number of extremists connected to the military in the past decade more than quadrupled compared with the decade before, the research found. Most extremists connected to the military are veterans, but recent years have also seen high-profile examples of active-duty servicemen being ensnared in extremism. The START researchers identified at least 188 people with military backgrounds who participated in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6. In addition to the insurrection, they tallied 451 more people who have committed extremist offenses since 1990. The military working group’s December 2021 report contained at least 20 recommended steps, some with 90-day deadlines. As of the middle of 2023, only two of these appear to have been completed with any clear effect. Others remain far behind, and some may be abandoned.