Forty members of Congress today asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (PDF) to investigate racist extremism in the military and discharge soldiers who participate in white supremacist activities.
In a letter citing a recent Center report, they urged Rumsfeld "to implement the recommendations of the Southern Poverty Law Center to adopt a zero tolerance policy when it comes to white supremacy and other forms of racial or religious extremism in the military."
The Center released its report, A Few Bad Men, on July 7. The letter to Rumsfeld was initiated by U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel of New York and Artur Davis of Alabama.
"It has . . . come as a shock to learn from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that there has been a growth of racist extremism in our military," the representatives wrote Rumsfeld. "According to the SPLC, military recruiters and commanders have apparently relaxed certain recruitment standards, and the result is that racist extremists are now serving in the armed forces.
"While there are no firm statistics on this growing phenomenon, we write to ask you to investigate the matter and to take forceful action to remove extremists from the military. We owe our courageous men and women in uniform nothing less."
The 40 members of Congress represent 20 states and all regions of the country.
When the report was released, Center President Richard Cohen wrote Rumsfeld and detailed the Center's findings. He recommended that Rumsfeld appoint a task force to determine the extent to which enlistment standards have been relaxed in order to meet recruitment demands; adopt a zero tolerance policy on racist extremists; and ensure that the policy is uniformly and rigorously enforced in all military branches.
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama also has written Rumsfeld to urge adoption of a zero tolerance policy.