An AP investigation found that despite the new rules, racism and extremism remain an ongoing concern in the military.
In February, with the images of the violent insurrection in Washington still fresh in the minds of Americans, newly confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin took the unprecedented step of signing a memo directing commanding officers across the military to institute a one-day stand-down to address extremism within the nation’s armed forces.
The stand-down came in response to the participation and the subsequent arrests of several veterans and at least one active duty service member, who along with thousands of supporters of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, stormed the U.S. Capitol in a melee that sent lawmakers scrambling for safety, left one person fatally shot by Capitol Police and caused millions of dollars in damages to the building largely seen as the symbol of American democracy.
Austin’s order, which also came as America as a whole was grappling with how to address systemic racism, was the latest in a series of decades-long efforts by the military to purge its ranks of extremists and white supremacists. Last week, in response to the order the military issued new rules to deal with extremism that included social media usage policy updates where liking and reposting white nationalist and extremist content could result in disciplinary action. The DOD also updated its screening of recruits and is looking at how to prepare troops who are retiring from being targeted by extremist organizations.
But an AP investigation shows the new guidelines do not address ongoing disparities in military justice under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the legal code that governs the U.S. armed forces. Numerous studies, including a report last year from the Government Accountability Office, show Black and Hispanic service members were disproportionately investigated and court-martialed. A recent Naval Postgraduate School study found that Black Marines were convicted and punished at courts-martial at a rate five times higher than other races across the Marine Corps.
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