Pentagon to Implement New Military Sexual Assault Response System

Pentagon to Implement New Military Sexual Assault Response System

The Defense Department announced a plan to implement many new strategies courtesy of an Independent Review Commission during the next 8 years to help curb sexual assault, including an independent organization to prosecute cases of sexual assault, harassment and other crimes without entering into a chain-of-command process.

According to a 13-page Pentagon document released recently, the so-called road map includes a long list of steps to be taken for each tier and deadlines for those actions.

Some of the first actions to be implemented will include setting up special victims' prosecutors’ offices to file charges and submit cases to the courts-martial. Independent investigators will also be established for sexual harassment cases and a policy for involuntary separation will be implemented for anyone with a substantiated report against them.

The new plan favors a professionalized workforce and removes collateral duty for sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates.

Other steps on the agenda include allowing sexual abuse survivors to take time off from work after reporting an assault, focusing on survivors' preferences for reporting assaults and providing mental health, legal, and other resources for victims of sexual harassment.

According to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, the initial efforts will have a deadline of 2027, but the plan is for the core of the active-duty component to be changed within two or so years, while reserve units will receive more time.

In addition to the items falling under DoD's authority, Hicks noted that working with the Congressional delegation will be essential to achieving their goals. The commission will also enact the Uniform Code of Military Justice and fund independent investigations and prosecutions by civilians.

A senior defense official told reporters the project will cost $4.6 billion between 2022 and 2027.

Additionally, the road map includes directions for collecting various new data while also dividing up some DoD already contained.

Hicks' Deputy's Workforce Council will conduct a quarterly progress report twice a year.

The UCMJ allows commanders to intervene in criminal prosecutions of sexual assaults. Critics claim that it enables perpetrators to avoid punishment and erodes victims' trust in the system.