white supremacy in the military
Navy midshipmen march onto field ahead of an NCAA college football game between the Army and the Navy in Philadelphia. The military later investigated hand gestures used by cadets and midshipmen during the television broadcast of game for a possible link to white supremacy. 14 Dec 2019 (Matt Rourke/AP/Shutterstock)

Newly Unearthed Pentagon Report Examines White Supremacy Within Military Branches

A Pentagon report detailing the inroads that white supremacists have made into the military has recently come to light. Prepared by Pentagon officials in October of 2020 for Congressional review, the report was recently unearthed through a Freedom of Information Request by the editorial team at the Congressional newsletter CQ Roll Call.

According to Roll Call’s John M. Donnelly, the report, which “details the military’s efforts to keep extremists, particularly fascists, out of the military” offers suggestions on how the Pentagon can use government resources like the FBI to identify whether military recruits have ties to extremist groups and how they can be vetted during the recruitment process. The report also includes a large database of conversations conducted by current military members in an extremist online forum called “Iron March.” 

In the forum, members of various military branches talk freely about their interest and involvement in the white supremacy movement, without any fear of repercussion.

Donnelly said the report “paints a stark picture of white supremacist inroads in the U.S. military.” He added that it also “reveals several steps the Pentagon is now reviewing to kick such people out and help keep them out — from accessing an FBI database of extremist tattoos to improving security clearance questions.”

In their own story on the report, CNN’s Ellie Kaufman and Oren Liebermann wrote that while the report “concluded that extremist views were not widespread and identified ‘a low number of cases in absolute terms,’ it underlines the urgency of the problem because ‘individuals with extremist affiliations and military experience’ are a concern to U.S. national security because of their proven ability to execute high-impact events.”

Speaking with CNN, Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism said “There’s never been an acknowledgment from the top ranks that this has to be handled, so the fact that we now have that and there is an effort underway to do something is actually quite encouraging. Now, how well that’s done and executed and all the pieces are put in place, that’s a different question that we’ll have to wait and see what the results are.”

Kaufman and Liebermann also pointed out that while military members may not enter service as members of militant white supremist groups, they are among the top candidates these individuals try to bring in as new recruits.

“Current or former members of the military are primary targets for extremist groups, because members with military service give the groups legitimacy and bring ‘combat and tactical experience’ in order to carry out their attacks,” the pair wrote. “Access to service members with combat training and technical weapons expertise can also increase both the probability of success and the potency of planned violent attacks.”

According to Kaufman and Liebermann, “while members of the military are prohibited from ‘participating in or advocating for supremacist and other extremist ideology,’ right now there is no official military rule or regulation that service members identified as domestic extremists or white supremacists be required to leave the military, except in the Navy. The authors of the [Pentagon] report believe one should be added for all branches of military service.”

Roll Call’s Donnelly reported that Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and a former member of the Armed Services Committee has said he plans to introduce legislation requiring the Pentagon to implement the report’s findings.

“What the report made clear is that white supremacists are using our military to further their hateful and violent agenda,” Aguilar said. “We need further collaboration between agencies like the [U.S. Department of Defense] and FBI to make sure that we’re keeping extremists away from our servicemembers and keeping our communities safe as well.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has also ordered an investigation into the matter and the Pentagon has created a “diversity task force” designed to find ways to keep “fascists out of the military.” Both those efforts are in their early stages and the results of their impact are not yet known, but the government will need all the help they can get as soon as possible; during a House hearing on Feb. 25 about the Capitol insurrection, acting Police Chief Yogananda Pittman gave a testimony saying “We know that members of the militia groups that were present on Jan. 6 have stated their desires that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible, with a direct nexus to the State of the Union.”



D.I. Fast Facts


Percent of the more than 230 men and women who have been criminally charged for the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 who are current or former military personnel.
CQ Roll Call



Number of active-duty personnel who have witnessed signs of white supremacy within military ranks
Military Times



Percent of current military personnel who consider white supremacy within military a threat, overshadowing North Korea (40.3%), immigration (21.4%) and the U.S. protest movements (33.1%)
Military Times


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