SECDEF Withdraws From Extremism Not Supposed To Be A Panacea, Pentagon Spokesman Says
Two major initiatives by the new Secretary of Defense are moving forward as the Pentagon chief leads the department in its efforts to tackle core personnel issues – extremism in the ranks and sexual harassment.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby admitted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s memo to the services calling for a 60-day suspension to fight extremism was not designed to be a panacea.
“This is an opportunity for leaders to listen to the men and women they lead,” Kirby told reporters. “This is just one step in what the secretary thinks is a very deliberate process to try to tackle this problem. He understands that a one-day suspension does not solve anything. This might bring to light concerns and experiences that he might not be aware of. “
Austin released his memo following the deadly siege of the United States Capitol on January 6, in which several veterans and some servicemen took part.
Kirby, a retired Navy Rear Admiral, described Austin’s suspension as “tackling the deck plates” of the problem. This effort, he said, is not meant to be just a one-way fire hose of information directed at the troops. Austin, he said, wants to “find out what exists in the force. Listening to our men and women as they share their own views and perspectives will undoubtedly inform the procedures, policies or actions put in place by the secretary. “
The note, released by the department on February 5, orders commanders to choose a day within the next 60 days to proceed with demobilization.
While work can be tailored to the unit, Austin expects leaders to “understand the importance of our oath of office; a description of the unauthorized behavior; and procedures for reporting suspected or actual extremist behavior, ”according to the memo.
Austin has already met with the department heads and received information from them on countering extremism.
The services are also considering ways to inform departing troops of how these extremist groups are trying to recruit veterans.
Last month, President Joe Biden ordered the Pentagon to create a 90-day commission to “seek solutions to sexual assault in the military.”
In the wake of the announcement, Austin ordered senior executives to submit “a summary of sexual assault, harassment and accountability measures” that had been taken over the past year “that show promise, as well as a frank, data-based assessment of those who don’t, ”Military Times previously reported.
Austin wanted this summary to also include information on how the leadership monitored programs to ensure they were “being delivered in the field with fidelity.”
And the assessments were also to include data from the past decade and information on victim advocacy efforts and support.
This first deadline struck Friday.
Kirby said department heads submitted the information and a reading was due in Austin this week.
Part of the submission includes recommendations from the chiefs on who will serve on the commission.