SecDef Hagel Unveils New Policies on Sexual Assault Cases
Pentagon officials on Thursday formally unveiled new sexual assault policies designed to bolster victim resources and blunt criticism that the military is ill-equipped to handle the sensitive crimes.
But the moves appear unlikely to appease lawmakers who have been calling for a dramatic overhaul of military sexual assault cases, starting with taking the legal responsibilities out of the chain of command.
In a memo to staff, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called sexual assault “a stain on the honor of our men and women who honorably serve our country, as well as a threat to the discipline and the cohesion of our force.”
The new policies include creation of a new legal advocacy program to provide assistance to victims in sexual assault litigation and exploration of ways to give victims more input in the sentencing phase of courts-martial.
They will also mandate more monitoring of sexual assault incidents, both in “timely” follow-up reports by generals or flag officers and additional investigations by the Defense Department’s inspector general.
The Pentagon also recently established an independent panel to review the entire sexual assault military legal process, including how investigations and prosecutions are carried out. Congress has mandated creation of that review board
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel Jessica Wright said the changes show “an unprecedented level of senior level engagement on these issues” and a commitment by senior leaders to help victims seek justice.
“The bottom line is that sexual assault is not tolerated, it’s not condoned, and it’s not ignored,” she said.