In April 2021, the Center for American Progress and the McCain Institute for International Leadership released a blueprint providing a comprehensive set of federal policies critical to combating white supremacist violence that was developed after a yearlong convening of leaders from affected communities, civil rights advocates, law enforcement stakeholders, and counterterrorism and national security experts.
The most central object of this blueprint is the need to curb white supremacist activities and infiltration in law enforcement, military, and veteran communities; the core government entities charged with embodying and protecting American ideals and security. They are also prime targets for recruitment and infiltration by violent white supremacists seeking to gain enhanced tactical skills and credibility for their activities.
On October 4, the Center for American Progress hosted a Zoom event attended by Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) and former Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) to discuss the path forward for federal policy efforts to counter white supremacist activities and infiltration in law enforcement, military, and veteran communities.
Senator Jones began the conversation by stressing the threats posed to the United States by white supremacist groups and the need for the federal government to take action in preventing and countering further violence.
“It has been acknowledged that [white supremacy] is the most significant threat that we face from extremist violence… I think it’s incumbent upon The Department of Justice to establish some federal advisory committees. This needs to be a whole of government approach to develop policies and guidelines to implement strategies. That’s the key; implementing strategies and helping law enforcement across the spectrum – federal, state, and local – to mitigate any white supremacist action.”
Representative Brown outlined the federal legislation pending in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to address growing extremism in the military. The legislation would be a major step in combatting white supremacy and extremism in the United States military.
“First, we clarify the Secretary of Defense has the authority to exclude from participation in the military and separate from military service anyone who not only participates in extremist activity but is a member of an extremist organization… the next thing we do is data collection… the third component is training. It’s important that we train everyone from the Private to the four-star Admiral or General, ‘What do we mean by extremism? How do we identify it? How do we promote the values against which extremism is inconsistent?’
The final piece is to develop an institutional capacity within the Department [of Justice] to do the oversight, the monitoring, the training, the education and the enforcement because we know that so long as extremism exists in America, the military will be the object of extremist groups that want to recruit from the military.”
Both panelists also discussed the importance of data collection in understanding the issues of extremism in The United States and how to properly address them.
“I’ve never seen any government agency or private sector people who want to collect data. They always talk about the burden,” explained Senator Jones, “Mayors and county commissioners and chiefs of police and sheriffs; they don’t want their communities being tagged as a hate crime filled community… so there’s been a reluctance to really collect this data.”
In regard to the importance of data collection in understanding the American military’s white extremism problem, Representative Brown, a retired United States Army Colonel, claimed, “You can ask different members of the military the extent to which extremism exists and you will get a varying degree of responses. Some will say ‘there’s no extremism in my ranks.’ That’s wrong. Others will say, ‘yes, we have a serious problem, but we don’t know the full extent.”
Senator Jones concluded the discussion by reminding viewers, “[white supremacy and extremism] should be a bipartisan issue. This is not a republican issue or a democrat issue. This is an American issue that we need to deal with, and we can only deal with it with people taking a strong stand and standing up for what’s right in this country.”