Armed Forces News

Great Lakes, Ill - Aug 2018: Recruits stand at attention in formation after physical training at Recruit Training Command (RTC). More than 30,000 recruits graduate annually from the Navy's only boot camp. (Navy photos by MCS 2nd Class Spencer Fling)

The Defense Department has presented plans to improve the vetting of new recruits to screen out potential extremists and bad actors.

Nevertheless, they acknowledged that recent changes would ultimately enhance it.


For example, the decision two years ago to centralize department-wide screening efforts has helped identify problematic individuals that previously would have been able to enter the service, Pentagon personnel officials stated in a report to the Hill that outlined its course of action.

Added cooperation with the FBI helped improved the process of conducting background checks as well, a white paper stated.

The document made the following recommendations:

• Continued cooperation with the FBI to identify “questionable/concerning tattoos,” and garnering appropriate assistance when determining their specific meanings.

• Collaboration with the FBI’s counter-terrorism division to develop an unclassified version of the agency’s training regimen for ethnically motivated violent extremism.

• Collaboration with other federal agencies to formulate a consistent definition of domestic extremism.

• Participation in the publicly available electronic information working group, to increase insight into “capabilities that may help to meet recruiting needs.”

• Ensuring that accessions forms can be “more easily understood and well-defined.”


• Inclusion of a designator on the DD-214 separation form that identifies domestic extremism as a reason for leaving military service.

The Pentagon has already begun implementing some of these changes, and is looking into the role social media could play when conducting background checks. The sheer number of such platforms presents a problem of separating irrelevant information from that which could prove useful, the white paper cautioned.

“Databases alone cannot provide a full, whole-person determination of applicants,” its authors stated.

In any case, the white paper stated that recruiters would continue to “play a critical role and are the first line of defense” for collecting appropriate information about potential recruits. Further training that would help identify “extremist indicators” would advance the process, it stated.