The U.S. government has not done enough to prevent extremism in the Armed Forces in the three years since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, one nonprofit claims.

The Western States Center, which touts civic engagement and has been pushing back on extremist groups for the past several years, scored the military’s efforts a three on a 10-point scale — one being most insufficient — in a scorecard published this week.

The scorecard rated the government’s efforts to address what the nonprofit claimed were the six biggest threats to U.S. democracy, one of which was to root out white nationalism within the military and among federal law enforcement.

The Western States Center included extremism in the military as one of the six threats because of the status service members hold in society and their ability to further anti-democracy movements if they become involved with them, said Freddy Cruz, a researcher with the nonprofit.

“There are anti-democracy organizations that view the military as an opportunity,” Cruz told Military Times. “Some of the groups encourage members to join for the sake of getting military training, and extremists view them as avenues to legitimize their organizations and their activities.”

The nonprofit described the military’s efforts since Jan. 6 as “lackluster” and argued that the Pentagon’s trainings about extremism were mostly symbolic. The group pointed to a report from December that found the Defense Department investigated 183 allegations of extremist activity among service members in 2023, including 78 cases of troops advocating for the overthrow of the U.S. government. The findings, which came from the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General, revealed that the DOD investigated 37 more cases of extremism in 2023 than in 2022, which was the first year the IG issued a report on the subject.

A new report published between Christmas and New Year’s also prompted concern from the Western States Center about the lack of progress the Pentagon was making. In the report, the Institute for Defense Analyses said the Pentagon’s policies about extremism were creating confusion among service members. The report also shed light on problems with the Pentagon’s process for reporting incidents of extremist activities. Those issues had already been pointed out in earlier reports by other groups, Cruz said.

“It referred back to recommendations that had also been offered by civil society groups,” he said. “There’s not necessarily anything that is new.”

In its scorecard, Western States Center criticized Congress for approving a measure at the end of 2023 that abolished a Defense Department working group aimed at preventing extremism in the military. The nonprofit worries that the shutdown means any problems with extremism in the military will go unaddressed.

Extremism in the Armed Forces is a longstanding issue that has grown in urgency since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, the scorecard claims. According to data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism, 193 individuals with military backgrounds had been charged or convicted for their roles in the breach of the Capitol as of September 2023. That accounts for about 17.5% of all defendants charged in the attack.

However, the vast majority of those individuals, about 90%, were no longer serving in the military at the time of the attack. Only 20 were active-duty service members or members of the National Guard or Reserve. Many of the individuals with military backgrounds who faced charges had been separated from military service for more than a decade, according to the the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism.

Still, the Pentagon has a role to play in preventing extremism among veterans, too, the Western States Center said. The nonprofit recommended that the Defense Department work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement programs that could support service members in their transition to civilian life and help them find meaningful community engagement.

In addition to extremism in the military, the Western States Center scored the government on five other issues that threaten U.S. democracy. The nonprofit gave the government a score of three for its efforts to support local democratic institutions’ resistance to anti-democracy assaults.

The highest score was a six, which was given for the government’s work to enforce consequences for people who threaten democracy. Western States Center applauded the Department of Justice’s work to charge over 1,000 people in the Jan. 6 attack.

The government’s efforts to protect elections scored a five on the nonprofit’s scale. The Western States Center claimed that elected officials and community leaders could do much more to create boundaries against bigotry and political violence. Those efforts scored a two out of 10.

The lowest score was a one, which went to the government’s work to protect individuals and communities from bigoted and anti-democratic threats and harassment. The nonprofit highlighted an increase in threats against poll workers, as well as recent incidents of lawmakers being swatted, which occurs when someone deceives police or other emergency teams to respond to another person’s address.

“We’ve seen threats to election workers, to elected representatives and representatives getting swatted,” Cruz said. “This all snowballs and feeds into a larger challenge against democratic institutions.”

This story was produced in partnership with Military Veterans in Journalism. Please send tips to

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.

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