Military elevates handling of sex crimes

Defense Department

The U.S. military is starting several new initiatives that defense leaders argued shows they are taking sex crimes in the ranks more seriously than ever.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey announced to members of Congress on Monday that, among several changes, the Defense Department will elevate the minimum rank of officer required to handle allegations of rape, sexual assault, and forcible sodomy, or attempted cases of those crimes.

Now those crimes will be overseen by the convening authority of a “Special Court Martial,” typically an officer with at least a rank of colonel or, in the Navy, a captain.

“Sexual assault has no place in the military. It is a violation of everything that the U.S. military stands for,” Panetta claimed in a rare press conference with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. “This is a strong package.”

Sexual assault has been a growing problem for the military, which has seen a spike in cases reported and prosecuted alongside the Defense Department's efforts to stop them. The Pentagon on Friday released its latest congressionally-mandated annual report on sexual assaults. For the period ending Sept. 30, 2011, there were 3,192 reported sexual assaults, a 1 percent increase from the previous year.

Criminal divisions of the services investigated 2,933 people last year, and 1,518 of the completed investigations were recommended for disciplinary action with 989 receiving some kind of punishment. Of those, 489 received courts-martial charges, and 187 received “non-judicial punishment,” common to the military but that have drawn ire from members of Congress.

“Sexual assault is not an issue of bad behavior. It is not an issue of bad judgment. It is a crime,” said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio., cochair of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus. Turner cited one complaint in his district that he said “mirrors” many heard by members of Congress.

“We all have stories to tell,” Rep. Nikki Tsongas, D-Mass., the other cochair, said of “alarming statistics we hear over and over again.”

Panetta said sexual assault “remains a disincentive” for Americans to join the military.

“At the local unit level, sometimes these matters are put aside. They’re not followed up with,” Panetta said. The new rule requires any type of complaint received to be channeled up the higher chain of command for action.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., chair of the Women in the Military Caucus, said the measures, some of which are contained in the defense authorization act under consideration, ensure “that the culture and the climate of our military changes.”

Dempsey added, “Our profession is based on trust and this particular crime erodes that trust.”

The Defense Department also will require special advanced training for military investigators, prosecutors, and those helping victims and witnesses, including those collecting evidence. Additionally, the service will require all troops on undergo sexual-assault awareness training within 14 days of entrance to active duty.

The announcement is the latest of several Defense Department steps taken in the past year to ramp up sexual-assault awareness and prevention, including speeding up the transfers of assault victims out of their units for protection and adding legal services worldwide for spouses and dependents. The Pentagon also increased training funds for military investigators and lawyers, set up a case-tracking database, and installed a two-star general to oversee its internal watchdog office.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.