Opening Remarks of Ranking Member Kelly

Feb 11, 2020
Opening Statement
Incidents of White Supremacy in the Military

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's hearing titled, "Alarming Incidents of White Supremacy in the Military—How to Stop It? " 

"Thank you, Chairwoman Speier.

"I wish to welcome both of our panels to today’s hearing.

"I think extremist activities of any kind are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in the military. They cut to the very core of what the military was founded on… good order and discipline. George Washington once wrote 'Discipline is the soul of an army. — It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.'

"The thought of extremist activities like white supremacy pervading the military is in direct contrast to the foundation of what the military stands for. As a former brigade commander and battalion commander in combat, I can tell you from experience that Soldiers must and do trust each other with their lives, regardless of their backgrounds or the color of their skin. Service members are judged based on their ability to perform their job and the content of their character, and any other distinctions have no place in the military or in society. I am interested in understanding the true magnitude of these issues from today’s witnesses.

"As I was preparing for this hearing, I realized we don’t have a lot of reliable data on this. Aside from a recent newspaper poll on racist behavior in the military, we have few solid statistics on extremist behavior in the military. 

"The definitive data we do have comes from the Department of Defense, where there have been 21 criminal cases involving white supremacy over the last five years amongst all four military services and all components. DoD is now tracking investigations into white supremacy as well as other extremist activities and sharing this information with the FBI. 

"This is a step in the right direction on the law enforcement side, but I think data is a huge key to unpacking this issue. We need to define the problem and get reliable data on how prevalent it is in the military. On panel 1, I’d like to understand the magnitude of extremist and white supremacy activities across all of society and what data is being tracked outside of the military. I’m also interested in your recommendations especially as they pertain to training and data collection for the military.

"On panel 2, I’d like to hear about the Department’s screening processes and the ongoing monitoring of extremist activities. My understanding is there may be a gap in the reporting of the non-criminal cases that have been handled administratively by commanders, that resulted in an administrative discharge. I’d like to understand DoD’s way forward on this issue and whether we also need to have standardized training across the Services.

"I want to thank our witnesses for being here today. Thank you and I yield back." 

116th Congress