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A former Green Beret is calling on the Department of Defense to end its hunt for military extremism following a ‘fruitless’ investigation and recommendation from the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“I hope that the DOD and the Biden administration take the recommendation so that our service members can get back to the war-fighting functions that they’re supposed to be training on,” Derrick Anderson, a retired Green Beret and former congressional candidate in Virginia told Fox News.
The Senate Armed Services Committee submitted its 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the DOD last month, which included a recommendation to halt its programs countering extremism in the ranks.
The report accompanying the bill was approved by narrow margins, 14-12, and states, “the vast majority of service members serve with honor and distinction, and that the narrative surrounding systemic extremism in the military besmirches the men and women in uniform.”
“The committee believes that spending additional time and resources to combat exceptionally rare instances of extremism in the military is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds and should be discontinued by the Department of Defense immediately,” the report continues.
FILE – This March 27, 2008, file photo, shows the Pentagon in Washington. The U.S. Army, for the first time, is offering a maximum enlistment bonus of $50,000 to highly skilled recruits who sign up for six years. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Disappointed by the committee’s Democrats voting against the recommendation, Anderson said, “as we’ve seen with the Democrats over and over again, they’re digging their heels in on these types of woke policies instead of just coming to the table and saying, ‘hey, maybe we were wrong on this.’”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a military-wide “stand down” to address extremism in February of 2021, after some defendants charged in connection with the January 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol were found to have had military ties.
On January 2, 2022, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff detailed the number of hours and dollars spent on fighting this alleged extremism in the ranks. Chairman Milley’s letter to the committee indicated that there were 5,359,000 hours and over $500,000 spent on the stand down, not including the cost of compiling the CEAWG report.
“The Senate Armed Services Committee has essentially said that it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars to be conducting this training when our service members should be otherwise training for combat,” Anderson said of the committee’s recommendation to halt anti-extremism programs.
The Pentagon’s Countering Extremist Activity Working Group (CEAWG), established in April 2021, identified fewer than 100 instances of confirmed extremist activity in 2021, the Pentagon reported in December.
With roughly 2.1 million active and reserve personnel in the U.S. military, 100 cases is roughly .005% of the force.
“Why are we wasting taxpayer dollars on 0.005% of our military being considered extremist?’” Anderson said.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visits National Guard troops deployed at the U.S. Capitol and its perimeter, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool)
In addition to the taxpayer burden, and impact on combat readiness training, Anderson said the attention spent on rooting out extremism has taken a toll on recruitment efforts.
With less than three months remaining in the fiscal year, all branches of the military are struggling to meet recruiting goals.
An internal Defense Department survey found that only 9% of Americans ages 17-24 eligible to serve in the military had any inclination to do so, the lowest number since 2007, according to NBC.
The U.S. Army is expecting to cut the size of its forces in the coming years due to recruiting difficulties, which has already left them 10,000 soldiers short of their goal for this year. The Air Force is 4,000 recruits behind its goal.
Ret. Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr of the Heritage Foundation said this is the most trouble the military has had recruiting since 1973, after the U.S. left Vietnam and ended the draft.
“When you look at what policies are being placed by the Biden administration and Secretary Austin, there’s no wonder we don’t have the recruitment levels that we had. There’s no wonder we have people leaving the military in exponential numbers,” Anderson said.
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division stand security at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. (Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Marine Corps via AP) (Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Marine Corps via AP)
The Pentagon has recently been criticized after it was revealed that West Point Cadets were receiving lessons on critical race theory, in documents exclusively obtained by Fox News Digital from government watchdog group Judicial Watch.
“Some might call them ‘woke’– everyone has their different terminology for them– at the end of the day, they’re not war-fighting functions, I can tell you that,” Anderson said of the Pentagon’s focus on social justice initiatives.
In April, Fox News Digital spoke to more than 30 current and former service members, all of whom echoed similar remarks, explicitly saying they’d never seen any extremist behavior within the ranks.
Anderson said over the course of his 6 tours of duty overseas with the Special Forces, he never witnessed extremism.
“When those bullets start flying, we’ve got each other’s back no matter what. I personally did not experience it while I was in the military, and I had some of the best soldiers and most diverse soldiers that I ever worked with,” the combat veteran told Fox News.
Fox News Digital’s Isabelle McDonnell contributed to this reporting.
Teny Sahakian is an Associate Producer/Writer for Fox News. Follow Teny on Twitter at @tenysahakian.