Rep. Bob Wittman on Lloyd Austin: ‘What Is the Definition of Extremism?’

Rep. Robert Wittman, R-Va., speaks during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Thur
Greg Nash/Pool via AP

Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak asked Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) about Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s claim that “extremism in the military” necessitates a 60-day “stand down” order across the armed services to address.

Last week, Austin issued a military-wide order for commanders to spend the next 60 days discussing “extremism” with military personnel.

“I’m very concerned about Lloyd Austin,” Pollak stated on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Sunday. “He got a waiver from Congress just like James Mattis did. … Lloyd Austin said some really astonishing things in his confirmation hearing. He talked about enemies within the military, and now we’re going pause military operations over the next 60 days to make sure that there are no extremists, and by this, they mean extremists on the right within the military.”

Pollak continued, “The military is the most diverse institution in America, so I don’t know why they think they’re going find a bunch of white supremacists in the military. I think it’s kind of a Democratic prejudice against the armed forces and law enforcement in general.”

“I’m very concerned about Lloyd Austin,” Pollak added, “I don’t think he’s doing a good job. I think he’s doing a terrible job. I wish I shared your confidence, but to come in and say your first act is going to be this political purge of the military — I understand getting rid of people like Major [Nidal] Hassan, Islamic extremists, and if you’ve got information on white supremacists in the military, get them out — but we’re going to pause our military readiness of our entire force to ferret out people who might have had some reservations about the November 3rd election? I think this is crazy.”


Wittman noted the nebulousness of the term “extremism” and called for transparency in defining such a term with clear parameters.

Wittman replied, “When we’re standing down, what message does that send to our adversaries? What is our posture around the world when we’re looking to deter our enemies if they’re looking at us standing down?”

“I think the [stand down order] also creates, potentially, a risk,” Wittman added, “and then I would want to know — and I think other members of the Armed Services Committee want to know, too — is what is the definition of ‘extremism’? We understand when members and military come in, they go through a security background check to make sure that there’s nothing there that would be of issue in them serving the nation.”

Wittman said that Austin’s call for removing “extremism” from the military does not become “political” screening.

Wittman remarked, “I do not want to see an effort where this does indeed become political. I want to make sure we understand that. That needs to be transparent. It needs to be thoughtful, and we need to fully understand what are the definitions they’re using. If they do separate somebody, why do they separate them? [We must] understand what was the reasoning behind it, so we can see that it’s not political. … What is this evaluation of extremism?”

Wittman added, “What is this stand down? What is this evaluation of extremism? What is the definition of extremism?”

Austin’s memo, titled “Stand-Down to Address Extremism in the Ranks,” does not define the “extremism” ostensibly addressed by the secretary’s 60-day “stand down” order. He described the measure as the beginning of a broader campaign against “extremism.”

Austin wrote, “We will not tolerate actions that go against the fundamental principles of the oath we share, including actions associated with extremist or dissident ideologies. … This stand-down is just the first initiative of what I believe must be a concerted effort to better educate ourselves and our people about the scope of this problem and to develop sustainable ways to eliminate the corrosive effects that extremist ideology and conduct have on the workforce.”

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