Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) blasted a Democrat colleague for suggesting as much as ten percent of the military could be white supremacists or adhere to “extremist ideology.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) queried two top military commanders during a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on how many white supremacists and extremists they believe are in the military, adding, “It may be a small percentage, under ten percent. But that’s a large percentage, in terms of its potential impact on the readiness and capability of our military and public support for our military.”
Sullivan, a Marine reservist colonel, said he was not going to bring up the issue of extremism at the hearing Tuesday but felt he had to after Blumenthal’s “irresponsible” remarks.
“This notion of extremism in the military — which is thrown about as if we know numbers, Senator Blumenthal [said] ten percent — I think that’s irresponsible. I’ve asked from the military data — I want data before we besmirch the entire military,” Sullivan said. He added:
It’s one of the most — best group of Americans who aren’t racists. You got knuckleheads in every organization in the world, including the Congress of the United States, by the way. But there’s this narrative now that we got all these extremists in the military. I think it’s ridiculous and we need to see data before we start throwing out issues like ten percent. How the hell does he know it’s ten percent?
Sullivan asked the witnesses, Transportation Command Commander Army Gen. Stephen Lyons and U.S. European Command Commander Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, if they believe there are “a bunch” of extremists in the military. Both agreed ten percent was too high a figure.
“Really makes me mad. The Washington Post, U.S. senators besmirching the whole damn force. Irresponsibly,” Sullivan said. “We have bad people. Of course. Idiots in any organization. But this is getting ridiculous when a U.S. senator is saying ten percent. Where the hell did he get that number? One in ten?”
“Senator, I don’t think it’s ten percent,” Lyons responded. “Matter of fact, I don’t think there’s been any data on the topic. I can just tell you from experience. It’s extremely small. And even though it’s extremely small, it may be less than one percent.”
Today in a @SASCGOP hearing, I asked our witnesses—two esteemed generals with decades of service—whether they believe we have anywhere close to 10% of service members being “extremists.”
— Sen. Dan Sullivan (@SenDanSullivan) April 13, 2021
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has vowed to root out “extremists” in the military and after some veterans participated in the January 6 protests at the Capitol, ordered the entire military to conduct a one-day stand-down to address “extremism.”
It is not clear how the Pentagon is defining extremism, and Austin recently established a working group to better define what it means.
Some conservatives in the military have chafed at the effort, concerned about being targeted for supporting former President Donald Trump or for having conservative views. The Pentagon insists it is not a political litmus test.
Sullivan said Austin should collect data on extremism in the military before embarking on his effort to root out extremism.
“Enough of this. We need data. We need data. Okay? And besmirching the whole damn force, reserve or active duty, whether it’s a U.S. senator, the Washington Post, which writes a story on this once a day with no data, or the undersecretary who wants to be undersecretary. I hope he’s not going to be undersecretary for the Pentagon,” he said referring to Colin Kahl, Biden’s nominee for defense undersecretary for policy.
Kahl had claimed at a March 5 hearing that “systemic racism” exists in the military.
“We need to start using data and not this B.S. that’s shameful because I don’t even think it’s close to ten percent. And you know what we’re going to do? This is going to make people not want to join the military,” he said.
“So, anyways, I was not going to even go on this topic, but when I hear a U.S. senator throw out ten percent, it’s ridiculous. Ridiculous. Really pissing me off,” he said.