Air Force senior leaders on Thursday announced that the department will conduct an assessment on extremism in the ranks of armed forces while calling on all service members to stand against these views.
"We took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The vast majority of us—whether active duty, guard, reserve, or civilian—spends every day upholding our Nation's laws, policies, and standards. However, there is small subset who fall short and are eroding the respect our Nation's citizens have for its military."
Chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Austin met with all of the military service chiefs and secretaries on Feb. 3 and told them he was ordering a “stand down” by all units in the next 60 days.
Austin had identified that the issue has been on the Pentagon's radar for a while and has vowed to tackle it during his tenure.
At his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing, Austin highlighted the need to rid the ranks of the U.S. military of “racists and extremists.”
Saying that we “owe our people a working environment free of discrimination, hate, and harassment,” he vowed to “fight hard to stamp out sexual assault, to rid our ranks of racists and extremists, and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity.”
"We also have a responsibility to educate, and inspire those in the Navy, those coming into the Fleet, and those leaving our service that extremist behavior is unacceptable. Hate and extremist ideology are wedges that divide us. These actions stoke resentment and tear others down," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said in a statement.
He talked about enemies within the military,” Wittman said, referring to remarks Austin made at his confirmation hearing, with the GOP lawmaker adding, “and by this, they mean extremists on the right within the military.”
“The military is the most diverse institution in America, so I don’t know why they think they’re going find a bunch of white supremacists in the military,” he said. “I think it’s kind of a Democratic prejudice against the armed forces and law enforcement in general,” he added.