The Defense Department investigated 183 allegations of extremist activity among service members in the past year, including 78 cases of troops advocating for the overthrow of the U.S. government, according to a report published Thursday by a Pentagon watchdog.
New findings from the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General reveal DOD investigated 37 more cases of extremism this year than in 2022, which was the first year the IG issued a report on the subject. Congress mandated in 2021 that the IG annually gauge how effectively the Defense Department prevents and responds to extremist activities in the ranks.
The report’s findings show ongoing issues with how the services track and report data, which in turn makes measuring the military’s response challenging. While the Army, Navy and Air Force reported the number of allegations that were investigated, the departments did not track how many allegations of extremist activity were received but not investigated, the IG found.
“Tracking of allegations not referred for inquiry or investigation is challenging, impacting data accuracy,” the IG’s office said in a news release Thursday. “The report highlights ongoing challenges in compiling and validating data, emphasizing the need for consistent implementation of data collection.”
Earlier this year, the IG’s office found that the Army, Navy and Air Force each had a different reporting structure and used different electronic systems for reporting allegations of extremism.
The Army uses several independent databases to collect information, “making it impossible to track” the number of allegations that weren’t referred for investigation, the report states.
The Air Force also lacks a single reporting system, and the Air National Guard was inconsistent at reporting allegations it received because of the complexity of cases in which members weren’t activated at the time of the alleged misconduct.
The Navy said reporting the data to the IG was “time consuming” and that multiple policies “created confusion.” The sea service also cited concerns about compromising the privacy of troops.
All services are in the process of implementing a standardized system to streamline how data is collected and reported, the analysis said. The new process includes notifying the IG’s office about new allegations and reporting whether the allegations are referred for investigation.
The system is also designed to notify the IG about decisions on whether the allegations are substantiated and what punishments are doled out. The report didn’t say when that new process is expected to go into effect.
Though the information was difficult to compile and validate, the IG’s office did report a breakdown of allegations that were investigated from Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2023. During that period, the Defense Department investigated 58 allegations of gang activity, in addition to the 183 cases of extremism.
Of those 275 total allegations, 68 were not substantiated and 136 are open cases. Sixty-nine of the allegations led to service members receiving some sort of punishment, including two courts-martial and 19 involuntary discharges. The report did not specify what types of allegations led to disciplinary measures.
In addition to the 78 allegations involving troops wanting to overthrow the US government, the 183 cases of extremist activity included 44 instances of service members advocating for terrorism and 22 cases of service members advocating for or committing violence to achieve political, religious or discriminatory goals.
Three allegations were made about troops advocating for or committing violence to deprive people of their rights, and 32 allegations centered on troops advocating for widespread discrimination of people based on race, religion, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The final four allegations involved service members encouraging other military personnel or DOD civilians or contractors to break the law or disobey orders in order to disrupt military activities.
Nikki Wentling covers disinformation and extremism for Military Times. She's reported on veterans and military communities for eight years and has also covered technology, politics, health care and crime. Her work has earned multiple honors from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors and others.