While many of us were still digesting our Thanksgiving meals, the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota was being criticized for telling airmen not to attend the political rally of an extremist group called Turning Point Action. While it isn’t clear how official the message sent on Facebook was, it is the most recent example of the difficulty the military has on responding to extremist views.

Illustration by Elize McKelvey for Military.com

This isn’t a new issue by any means. While many seem to think that the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 brought an end to violent extremism, it hasn’t gone away. In 2021, there was expert testimony to the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs on Violent Domestic Extremist Groups and the Recruitment of Veterans. In that testimony, it was reported that at least 66 military veterans were known to have participated in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. It isn’t clear how many active military participants were there, but they continue to be identified and charged. In January of this year, three active enlisted Marines were charged for their part in the attack. This followed the previous arrest and indictment of a Marine major for assaulting a police officer at the Capitol.

There continues to be a stream of other cases with extremism. In January of 2023, the Marines discharged a recruit from the delayed-entry program only after he admitted to having a history of ties to neo-Nazi groups. He enlisted in 2022 despite pre-existing reports by anti-fascism groups connecting him to the Patriot Front. The Marine’s responded to reports of the dismissal by saying that the recruit hadn’t responded “yes” to questions on the Aberrant Behavior Screening Form. This month, a SEAL is being investigated for participating in extremist causes in opposition to rights for transgender people.

The response to the military has been slipshod and seemingly ineffectual. In addition to the form that failed to screen the Nazi Marine, there are required briefings without any materials or training for the presenters,  a one day stand-down after the January 6 attack to allow the military to talk about values,  and an extremism working group that was shut-down at the end of 2021. Total spending on anti-extremism training across the military in 2022 was just $535,000.

More has to be done before we have the next Oklahoma City, the next January 6, or worse.