DOD Announces Initiatives to Combat Sexual Assaults

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week unveiled seven initiatives to enhance the Defense Department’s efforts to combat sexual assault in the ranks. These measures, which build upon measures that Hagel announced in May, aim to “improve victim support, strengthen pretrial investigations, enhance oversight, and make prevention and response efforts more consistent across the military services,” said Hagel in an Aug. 15 statement. The initiatives include: creating a legal advocacy program in each service to provide legal representation to victims; ensuring judge advocate general officers conduct pretrial investigative hearings; providing commanders options to reassign those accused of committing an offense; requiring timely follow-up reports on incidents and responses; directing DOD’s inspector general to regularly evaluate closed investigations; standardizing prohibitions on inappropriate behavior; and giving victims an opportunity to provide input during the sentencing phase of courts-martial. “Our success depends on a dynamic and responsive approach,” said Hagel. “We, therefore, must continually assess and strive to improve our prevention and response programs,” he said. (See also Wright-Scaparrotti-Little transcript and report by Jim Garamone.)