The Pentagon is looking into better screening recruits’ and service members’ social media as part of its effort to get rid of “extremism” in the United States military, according to a recent memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The Pentagon released the memo on Friday afternoon, approximately 60 days after Austin ordered a force-wide “stand-down” for commanders to discuss extremism in the military with troops after some military veterans took part in protests at the Capitol on January 6.
The Pentagon has never defined exactly what “extremism” means or given an estimate of how many “extremists” there are in the military — which defense officials have said was part of what Austin wanted to get a better grasp on during the unprecedented stand-down.
Friday’s memo, dated April 9, is Austin’s first action taken since the end of the stand-down and outlines immediate steps to be taken, as well as the establishment of a “Countering Extremism Working Group (CEWG),” which will have a representative from each military service.
One of the CEWG’s four lines of efforts (LOE) includes pursuing better screening of troops’ and recruits’ social media:
This LOE will examine the Department’s pursuit of scalable and cost effective capabilities to screen publically [sic] available information in accessions and continuous vetting for national security positions. The LOE will make recommendations on further development of such capabilities and incorporating algorithms and additional processing into social media screening platforms. This LOE will also endeavor to develop policy to expand user activity monitoring of both classified and unclassified systems.
Kirby said the Pentagon is looking to do that in a “legal, lawful way.”