The GAO has criticized a wide range of DoD policies on sexual harassment and assault among its civilian employees while saying the department’s system for reporting and tracking such incidents “only captures a fraction” of those involving civilians.
GAO said that DoD components are inconsistent in how prevention programs are structured, their content and how often employees undergo that training—as well as whether it is mandatory.
“As a result, civilian employees may have varying levels of knowledge needed to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and work-related sexual assault. Further, DoD lacks comprehensive prevention strategies that are specific to the civilian workforce,” it said.
It also cited inconsistencies among DoD components in reporting options for civilian employees and in eligibility for sexual assault support services and legal services.
It noted that the “DoD sexual assault incident database,” or DSAID, recorded 370 civilian employees as victims of sexual assault and 199 civilian employees as alleged offenders over 2015-2019. However, that database, oriented toward uniformed personnel, generally covers only incidents involving civilian employees that occur outside the continental U.S. and excludes DoD components other than the military services among other exclusions, said GAO.
It said that information about incidents is scattered among sources including records of EEO complaints and investigations by the military services when uniformed personnel allegedly are involved. But it said that without centralizing such information, “DoD is limited in its ability to identify and manage civilian-related trends, analyze risk factors or problematic circumstances across the force, and take action to eliminate or mitigate risks through prevention efforts.”
Further, some employees do not report such incidents for reasons including “that they wanted to forget about the incident and move on, they did not think anything would be done, and they did not want more people to know,” the report said.
It said that DoD generally concurred with nearly two dozen recommendations including that the department issue guidance for comprehensive tracking of civilian work-related sexual assaults, enhance guidance on the structure of anti-harassment programs for civilians, and request any needed changes in law.