Under new rules released by the Army on Wednesday, commanders must ensure troops are trained about off-limits extremist activities, take action when they spot extremism in their units and report any incidents to the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General.

The rules, which have been in the works for nearly three years, codify the Pentagon’s definition of extremist activities, which was updated in 2021 to include online interactions that promote terrorism, as well as rallies, fundraising and organizing in support of extremist ideologies. The rules also clarify the responsibilities commanders have to prevent and report extremist activities, and they outline the disciplinary actions commanders can take when soldiers violate those policies.

U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth shared the rules Wednesday with all Army commands, service component commands and direct reporting units. In one of two directives signed by Wormuth, she wrote that extremist activities “damage the nation’s trust and confidence in the Army as an institution.”

“They undermine morale and reduce combat readiness,” Wormuth added. “Extremism calls into question a soldier’s ability to follow orders from, or effectively lead and serve with, persons of diverse backgrounds, and it prevents maximum utilization and development of the Army’s most valuable asset – its people.”

The new rules are the result of the National Defense Authorization Act approved by Congress in 2021, which ordered Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to establish standard processes to refer allegations of extremist activities to the Inspector General’s office. The law mandated the IG to annually gauge how effectively the Defense Department prevents and responds to extremist activities in the ranks.

Congress approved those measures in reaction to the presence of veterans and service members at the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. As of May, 222 individuals with military backgrounds had been charged or convicted in connection with the attack, and 24 were active-duty service members or members of the National Guard or Reserves, according to data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

To comply with the 2021 law, the IG’s office released annual reports in 2022 and 2023 about the Pentagon’s responses to extremism. Its latest report revealed the Defense Department had investigated 183 allegations of extremist activity among service members in the past year, 37 more than in 2022.

However, the IG also detailed ongoing issues with how the services track and report data, which in turn made measuring the military’s response challenging.

“The report highlights ongoing challenges in compiling and validating data, emphasizing the need for consistent implementation of data collection,” the IG report states.

At the time, all services told the IG they were in the process of implementing standardized systems to streamline how data is collected and reported. The rules unveiled by the Army on Wednesday set that system into motion.

The rules require commanders and other Army authorities who receive allegations of soldiers engaging in off-limits extremist activities to notify an Army inspector general within 30 calendar days. Commanders and other authorities must also tell an Army IG whether they decided to refer an allegation for further investigation. If they decide not to have an allegation investigated, they must explain their reasoning.

Under the rules, commanders must also report to the IG if they took any disciplinary action, which could include a court-martial, a nonjudicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, an involuntary discharge, denial of reenlistment, reassignment or loss of security clearance.

The delay codifying these rules was due to a number of factors, said one Army official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The Pentagon didn’t issue guidance to the services about the 2021 NDAA until 2022, and then the rules were refined and reviewed by working groups, as well as Army headquarters and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

The Army and other service branches have been criticized, both by troops and extremism experts, for their efforts to address extremism so far, which included a Pentagon-mandated, one-day training following the Jan. 6 attack. Some service members described the training as “checking a box,” and one soldier called it a “one and done” training with no follow-up.

The Army’s new rules — in addition to detailing the process for reporting allegations of extremism to the IG — aim to bolster the information soldiers receive about off-limits extremist activities. They require continued extremism training for troops and offer more precise guidance for how commanders should address incidents of extremism in their units.

The United States Army Training and Doctrine Command will implement information about prohibited extremist activities into initial active-duty training, pre-commissioning training, commander training and professional military education, among other training programs, one directive states.

Commanders also have the responsibility of advising troops periodically about extremist activities and how they are “inconsistent with the Army goals, beliefs and values, as well as the oaths of office and enlistment.”

The Army directed commanders to “remain alert” and intervene when they observe soldiers acting in ways that could indicate future extremist activity. In those cases, counseling should be commanders’ first option. Soldiers could be referred for mental health evaluations or financial counseling sessions, the rules say.

“In these situations, commanders will take positive actions to educate soldiers, putting them on notice of potential adverse effects that participation in violation of military policy may have upon good order and discipline in the unit and upon their military service,” one directive states.

The rules apply to the regular Army, the Army National Guard and Army Reserve. It was uncertain Wednesday whether other services would issue similar directives. The IG’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps had implemented reporting processes of their own.

This story was produced in partnership with Military Veterans in Journalism. Please send tips to MVJ-Tips@militarytimes.com.

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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