Leo Shane III, associate editor of the Military Times, warned CNBC that extremism in the US military "has been an issue for some time" as concerns grow after a number of former and current service members last participated in the Capitol uprising last month.
"We know that especially white nationalist groups, extremist groups, like to recruit military because of their skills," Shane said. "These are desirable things when you have these crazy ideas for making a revolution … we've seen them target social media for years and provide false information."
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered that all units "step down" within the next 60 days to allow military leaders to speak to their troops about extremism in the ranks. Shane told The News with Shepard Smith that in the next two months it will be important for senior military leaders not only to discuss extremism with one another, but also to speak to the lower echelons.
"Are they going to go to the individual units … where we hear from people … see signs of tattoos, see things on social media that indicate that in some cases people are associated with these violent groups, there are even Nazis -Symbolism, Nazi flags or Nazi paraphernalia that people display, but that's not always seen by commanders? "Shane said.
The FBI prepared a report warning of the infiltration of white nationalists into local law enforcement agencies in 2006. A Department of Homeland Security and FBI assessment from last year showed that racist terrorist groups have shown unprecedented activity in modern times. Shane pointed out that the US military "has not yet done a really good poll to find out how many people have been linked to extremism".
The Military Times has surveyed its readers on the subject of extremism for the past four years and found that "a third of all active troops and more than half of minority service members said they had personally seen examples of white nationalism or ideologically motivated racism in the ranks . "
Shane told host Shepard Smith that the military thinks the third number is high but they don't have the date to disprove it either way.
"They haven't looked at the numbers yet, so these 60 days should be an opportunity for them to really gauge this and get a feel for whether we are right, who we think we are, or whether they are or not." I'm right and it's a very small problem, "Shane said.