On February 5, 2021, United States Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, announced a department-wide stand-down to address the problem of extremism in the ranks. This announcement, followed by one in April establishing the Counter Extremism Working Group, emphasizes the need for the Department of Defense to achieve a better understanding of the scope and nature of the problem. This research brief, which explores data from the Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) project, is intended to help in this effort by providing information on the military service backgrounds of individuals who committed extremist crimes in the U.S. from 1990 through the first nine months of 2021.
The data used in this research brief are from an ongoing project to expand the PIRUS database with supplemental information on the military backgrounds of U.S. extremists. This brief provides data on the rates of military service among U.S. extremists, as well as their branch, ideological, and extremist group affiliations. The brief also provides a closer look at the individuals with military backgrounds who have been charged with taking part in the Capitol breach on January 6, 2021. Future stages of this project will analyze the effects of combat deployment on the radicalization of U.S. extremists and provide a closer look at specific radicalization risk factors, including online recruitment, mental health concerns, and substance use disorders.