One of the great challenges of the Biden years is going to be getting a handle on the fascists and white supremacists in the military, something that only increased during the Trump years.
Roughly one-third of active duty troops said they had “personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the ranks in recent months,” according to a 2019 survey conducted by the Military Times and Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Troops said they had seen “swastikas being drawn on service members’ cars, tattoos affiliated with white supremacist groups, stickers supporting the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi-style salutes between individuals.”
At least one individual charged in connection with the assault on the Capitol allegedly embraced that extremist ideology. Timothy Louis Hale-Cusanelli, 30, is a Navy contractor who has worked at a naval weapons station with a secret security clearance, according to court documents. He is also an Army Reserve sergeant in the 174th Infantry Brigade and an “avowed white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer,” according to court documents.
Some experts argue the military has not done enough to tamp down on extremism in its ranks.
Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, called the military’s efforts largely “haphazard.”
“It’s not like the military is just tolerating white supremacists,” Pitcavage told NPR. But he said efforts to address the problem need to be more systematic.
“Not only does there need to be training,” Pitcavage said, “but there also need to be clear expectations coming down from on high about what you should do when you encounter an extremist in your unit, at your base or whatever the circumstances are, and that here are the procedures that need to be followed.”
The problem is not entirely lost on the Defense Department. After the Jan. 6 insurrection, a senior defense official told NPR there were 68 notifications of investigations by the FBI last year of former and current military members pertaining to domestic extremism.