The armed services are creating separate offices dedicated to investigating incidents of sexual assault and harassment. The move, predicated by an order from Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, removes jurisdiction for such probes from the chain of command.
“We have a moral responsibility to take care of our Army family like it’s our own family,” Army Secretary Christine E. Wormuth said during a recent livestream that took place during the National Discussion on Sexual Assault and Harassment Prevention at America’s Colleges and Universities.
“For too long, far too many survivors have suffered in silence,” Austin said. “One assault is too many. The number of sexual assaults in the military is still too high. This is a top priority for me.”
Earlier this year, the Army unveiled plans to overhaul its in-service prevention program. The change came in the aftermath of an investigation that unveiled problems with the command culture at Fort Hood, Texas, where several incidents took place. The service will focus on three areas: prevention, upgraded response to incidents, and development of a single regulation to guide investigations. The service also restructured the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CIDC).
“It is critical that we respond effectively and sensitively when sexual harassment or assault does happen,” Wormuth said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure our leaders have the resources they need to take care of our soldiers and their families when something happens.”