The Department of Defense sent a survey to service members last month asking dozens of questions about race relations and equity, along with a range of new questions about the “estimated prevalence of exposure to extremist activity in the military.”
According to a draft of the Workplace and Equal Opportunity survey obtained by Fox News Digital, the Pentagon wants to know whether “racist/extremist organizations or individuals” are a problem both where they work and in the community around their duty station. They also want to know if service members “know how to report experiences of extremist activity.”
In a different section, service members are asked if they witnessed or worked with anyone who showed “support for an organization, ideology, or hate group that promotes violence, discrimination, or other illegal acts.”
The survey asked about different examples of support, such as attending a rally, trying to recruit people, or openly advocating “illegal acts of violence or terrorism.” It asked service members to check off which ideology or goals were being expressed, a list that includes anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, White supremacy, sex and gender identity discrimination, and anti-U.S. government sentiment.
It asked them to explain in more detail what they saw and the names of the organizations or hate groups a service member supports.
The survey asked a range of similar questions about race, diversity and hazing in the military. It specifically asked if members of the military agree that they support diversity efforts, whether diversity is important to building a quality force, and whether they are “personally committed” to diversity.
It also asked them to agree or disagree that “an ideal society requires some groups to be on top and others to be on the bottom,” or if “no one group should dominate in society.”
The draft obtained by Fox News is labeled a “predecisional” draft. Department of Defense officials and others in the government declined to explain to Fox News whether or how the final version of the survey may differ.
However, the date of the draft survey indicates it is likely very close to the final version. In early April 2022, the Pentagon announced it was seeking comment on the survey and said it would consider comments received by May 11, 2022. The predecisional draft is dated after that deadline, May 13, 2022.
“Survey participants have the chance to detail their experiences and perceptions about unit climate and cohesion, as well as diversity and inclusion,” the DOD said about the survey in a statement last week. “They can also give their thoughts on the effectiveness of policies to improve racial and ethnic relations, as well as the complaints process.”
In the 2021 Defense Policy Bill that passed Congress, the DOD was required to add questions about extremism in its survey. However, a key group of senators this year told the Pentagon it should scale back its broad effort to root out extremist behavior, mostly because the Pentagon itself has found this behavior is extremely rare.
The DOD established a Countering Extremist Activity Working Group (CEAWG) in 2021 that led to new guidance on how to prevent extremist behavior from infecting the ranks. Along the way, however, the DOD acknowledged that the working group found fewer than 100 cases of prohibited extremist activity over the prior year, and nonetheless, admitted to spending more than 5 million man-hours on an anti-extremism push.
The Senate Armed Services Committee reacted to that finding by saying DOD leadership is spending too much time on a problem that is almost non-existent.
“The case incident rate does not warrant a department-wide effort on the issue,” senators said in a report accompanying the FY 2023 defense policy bill. “In light of the findings by Secretary Austin’s CEAWG, the committee believes that spending additional time and resources to combat exceptionally rare instances of extremism in the military is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds, and should be discontinued by the Department of Defense immediately.”
The committee approved that language in a majority vote that included all Republicans and Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, who usually votes with Democrats.