Combating Extremism in the U.S. Military


Marek Posard, Military Sociologist

The U.S. military has a unique purpose in our society. Extremism has the capacity to undermine the social bonds between personnel. Extremist groups also demand the time, attention, and loyalty of service members that's best focused on their military mission in support of our national defense.

We developed a four-part framework to categorize the ways in which the military could combat extremism:

  1. First, recognize and scope the problem of extremism.
  2. Leverage existing programs to prevent involvement with extremist groups.
  3. Detect extremist activities and design interventions to respond to them.
  4. Measure extremist activities and use the results to inform the evaluation of programs designed to prevent, detect, and intervene when commanders become aware of signs of extremist activities.

Prevention is the key. Chaplains, mental health providers, Military OneSource, family readiness groups, and community action boards are some examples of mechanisms that could help the military intervene before extremism rises to the level of violence.

Extremism is absolutely not a political issue. Extremism emerges from a diverse array of political, religious, or ideological beliefs. For the military, the issue is when any extremist view impacts military effectiveness.