The Extremism stand-down: How and why it’s happening

The extremism stand-down is meant to be a starting point for a cultural change at a time when the Navy begins to implement the work of Task Force One Navy. Listening to Sailors and conducting listening sessions needs to be the drumbeat moving forward as the Navy wants its force to clearly understand the damaging effects of extremism.

The Navy will not tolerate extremism in the ranks and announced its plans for a 60-day stand-down to get that message to everyone in the service.

Initially ordered by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in a Feb. 5 memo to the individual services, the Navy has now announced its dates, details and expectations for this period of reflection that all commands must complete by April 2.

“The intent of this stand-down is to ensure service members and civilian personnel clearly understand the damaging effects of extremism and begin developing more effective, sustainable ways to eliminate the corrosive impacts extremist activity can have on our Force,” wrote Vice Adm. John B. Nowell, Jr. in NAVADMIN 044/21, released on Feb. 19.

“Extremist beliefs, behaviors and conduct are not consistent with our core values, are detrimental to good order and discipline and degrade the toughness, trust and connectedness we are building in our Sailors and teams through our Culture of Excellence campaign.”

Nowell intends to get a discussion going. To that end, he is asking commanders and commanding officers to begin with those under their command themselves, either in person or virtually.

The Navy has developed a facilitation guide for commanders to use to conduct the stand-down. Commanders may tailor the message to their troops and missions, but at a minimum, the stand-down must cover:

• The meaning of the oath of office and enlistment that includes not only our rights of Freedom of Speech and Assembly, but also the limits on these rights for service members, rights we sacrifice in order to protect and build public trust.

• Actions that betray the oath that includes prohibited activities, Uniform Code of Military Justice direction on extremist activities, review of political activity and social media “dos and don’ts.”

• The responsibility of leaders at every level to remain alert for signs of extremism and then intervening. In addition, all leaders are also responsible to investigate and report what they find.

• Conduct listening sessions focused on our Core Values, our Culture of Excellence and the Task Force One Navy report.

This 60-day stand-down is not meant to be a “check in the box”, but a starting point for a cultural change at a time when the Navy begins to implement the work of Task Force One Navy. Listening to Sailors and conducting listening sessions needs to be the drumbeat moving forward.

“We have been emphasizing the importance of listening sessions since the establishment of Task Force One Navy last summer. Some commands have leaned into this while others have not,” Nowell wrote. “CNOs direction is that every commander or commanding officer will continue to conduct listening sessions and get it into their battle rhythm. This is where the hard work of establishing trust and connectedness starts.”

Nowell concluded his message by reminding Sailors of what the Navy calls “Signature Behaviors.”

In early 2020, fleet leaders identified these ten behaviors as a guide for everyone in the service, concepts that all in the fleet need to make second nature in their own lives and work.

Introduced as part of the Navy’s “Culture of Excellence”, these signature behaviors are:

• Treat every person with respect.

• Take responsibility for my actions.

• Hold others accountable for their actions.

• Intervene when necessary.

• Be a leader and encourage leadership in others.

• Grow personally and professionally every day.

• Embrace the diversity of ideas, experiences and backgrounds of individuals.

• Uphold the highest degree of integrity in professional and personal life.

• Exercise discipline in conduct and performance.

• Contribute to team success through actions and attitude.

As Sailors, we must strive to be inclusive, creating an environment where every individual understands that they are a valued member of the Navy team,” Nowell wrote. “This is an All-Hands effort.”

The discussion guide, supplementary slides, and additional resources to assist commanders and commanding officers with the conduct of the stand-down are available at https://www.navy.mil/Leadership/Chief-of-Naval-Personnel/CNP-Department-Exclusives/.

A discussion of the Signature Behaviors, what they mean and how they dovetail with the Navy’s core values is available at https://www.cpf.navy.mil/downloads/2020/02/signature-behaviors.pdf.

More information on the Navy’s Culture of Excellence efforts can be found at the Navy Personnel Command website via My Navy Portal at https://www.mnp.navy.mil/group/sailor-and-family-support. Click on the 21st Century Sailor tab, then Culture of Excellence.