The attempted insurrection at the Capitol last month left many of us shocked and horrified. Within the Pentagon, that horror was only compounded by the realization that many service members—both active duty and retired—participated in the riot. In an effort to address the extremism within the military’s ranks, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered a “stand down.”
CBS News reports, the order was issued by Austin in a meeting with all the service secretaries and service chiefs on Wednesday. The stand down will implement a break in the regular activities of service members and is intended to allow “each service, each command and each unit can take the time out to have these needed discussions with the men and women of the force,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday.
The stand down is slated to take place over 60 days in order to give commanders the flexibility and time needed to schedule the events and discussion they deem necessary. The stand down is meant to reiterate what behavior is expected of service members, as well as to find an understanding of the scope of the issue, according to KCTV5. Beyond that, it’s not clear what these discussions and events could look like.
During the meeting, the chiefs and secretaries voiced their concerns and some of the issues they’ve faced in trying to combat extremism. For starters, there isn’t a set definition within the armed forces on what entails extremism, making it difficult to root it out. Additionally, there isn’t a uniform policy across the armed forces for monitoring the social media presence of service members due to concerns around First Amendment rights.
The stand down is expected to address these issues and hopefully find a solution going forward. Kirby told reporters that the news active service members participated in the riot at the Capitol had an “electric effect” on the Department of Justice.
“The events on January 6, which were extreme in and of themselves, in which there were members, sadly, of the active duty force, participating and espousing these radical beliefs, and I think that, I know that the events of January 6 served as a wakeup call for this Department,” Kirby told reporters. “It certainly served as such for the secretary.”