September 8, 2021
In a statement to CBS News, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote:
Sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence continue to plague our ranks. These crimes have profoundly damaging, and sometimes lethal consequences for service members and our families, and fundamentally impact our combat readiness. While I cannot comment on individual cases, I take these issues, and the impact on the men and women of the services, and their families, with the utmost seriousness. One of my early actions as Secretary of Defense was the establishment of an Independent Review Commission on sexual assault and harassment in the military. In July this year, the Commission made 82 recommendations addressing accountability; prevention; climate and culture; and victim care and support. So here's what we're doing. First and foremost, we are working closely with Congress on legislative proposals to remove decisions about whether to prosecute sexual assaults and related crimes-including domestic violence-from the military chain of command. Second, the Department will create dedicated offices within each service to handle these specific crimes. Third, we have asked Congress to formally add sexual harassment as an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Finally, my team and I are reviewing an implementation roadmap for the many other thoughtful recommendations included in the IRC's report.
Taken together, these are among the most significant reforms to our military in decades. Additionally, I have directed immediate steps across the Department to understand what is happening at the installation and unit level. We are assessing compliance with sexual assault and harassment policies and visiting bases around the world that are either showing promise to identify solutions or illuminate bright spots and export best practices. We continue to focus intensively on increasing prevention efforts, training, and streamlining and improving accountability mechanisms. And as always, we continue to focus on the care and support we offer victims. The women and men of our armed forces dedicate their lives to defending our nation, and deserve a workplace and home free of sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence.
President Biden has placed an unprecedented priority on tackling this problem, and we've moved out quickly and deliberately to address it. I believe that bold action, commitment, and accountability are required, and that is exactly what we have, and will continue, to do. This is not a short-term problem and will not be solved by short-term strategies. It requires sustained action and commitment at the highest level of the Department of Defense - every commander, civilian leader, and member of the force must be a necessary part of the solution. Our people and our readiness are inextricably linked. These crimes endanger both. We find that unacceptable, and we aren't afraid to change what we do, how we prosecute and how we better prevent them. This is a leadership issue, and we will lead.
"In God we trust, through God we serve."
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!