Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) led a group of 30 House Republicans in urging Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to fight back against “creeping left-wing extremism” in the U.S. military.
Rosendale and his GOP colleagues said in a May 25 letter to Austin that they’re concerned about “the growing trend of left-wing extremism and politicization in our armed forces,” while citing several examples in support of their position that the nonpartisan legacy of the U.S. military “is now in jeopardy.”
The lawmakers expressed concern about the firing of a Space Force commander over his remarks that diversity and inclusion training in the military was “rooted in critical race theory, which is rooted in Marxism”; about West Point training that they said was “anti-police” and “racist”; and about the appointment and subsequent reassignment of the first chief diversity and inclusion officer in the U.S. Special Operations Command after the surfacing of “his vast trove of far-left social media posts,” including one that compared former President Donald Trump to Hitler.
The Republicans also objected to some of the efforts of Bishop Garrison, a top adviser to Austin, who in April was appointed to head the military’s newly established Countering Extremism Working Group, a body tasked with defining more specifically what constitutes extremist behavior, among other objectives.
“Under the guise of reviewing ‘extremism’ within the ranks of the Department of Defense, it appears that political actors such as Bishop Garrison … have been given broad freedom to both catechize and root out servicemembers who will not affirm far-left doctrines,” the lawmakers stated.
While the lawmakers didn’t provide more specifics on Garrison’s work, a report from The Intercept, citing internal Pentagon documents, claimed that Garrison was designing a social media screening program that would “continuously” monitor members of the military for “concerning behaviors.”
Pentagon officials didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment on the letter.
John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, denied the existence of such a program, telling reporters in Virginia last week that “there’s no pilot program run by Mr. Garrison or the extremist working group to examine social media.”
“There’s no effort inside this extremist working group to somehow spy on every individual in the military or spend hours and hours just gleaning through social media activity, just for the sake of doing it. This isn’t about some sort of surveillance program of our own people,” Kirby said.
Kirby did acknowledge Pentagon efforts predating the extremist working group that “look at the social media footprint when we are considering recruits as they come in,” as part of routine screening of candidates, which he said was just “good common sense.”
In announcing actions to counter extremism in the military and establishing the working group led by Garrison, the Pentagon said the group would “discuss the Department’s pursuit of scalable and cost-effective capabilities to screen publically available electronic information in accessions and continuous vetting for national security positions.”
The group “will make recommendations on further development of such capabilities and incorporating machine learning and natural language processing into social media screening platforms,” the Pentagon said, adding that the group “will also ensure training addresses issues raised by commanders and supervisors on ‘gray areas’ such as reading, following, and liking extremist material and content in social media forums and platforms.”
In February, the Pentagon chief ordered a 60-day “stand-down” by all units to address the loosely defined problem of “extremism” in the ranks of the military.
Days after that announcement, former U.S. Navy Lt Cmdr. Steven Rogers told NTD that Austin’s order was unprecedented, unnecessary, and a dangerous road that leads to “communist China.”
“This to me, is dangerous, it looks like a political litmus test, and it’s a road that you would only find in communist China or in the former Soviet Union,” Rogers said.
Earlier in May, Republican lawmakers announced a bill to combat critical race theory in U.S. military training programs.
Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) said at the time that critical race theory “is a divisive ideology that threatens to poison the American psyche.”
“The roots of this ideology are unmistakable. Just as Karl Marx advocated a social critical ethic of societal classism—oppressor versus oppressed—this is neo-Marxist ideology, cultural Marxism masquerading as history and designed to mislead,” he said.