Military Personnel: Preliminary Observations on DOD's and the Coast Guard's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Programs Page: 3 of 25
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss issues related to
the Department of Defense's (DOD) and Coast Guard's programs to
prevent, respond to, and resolve reported incidents of sexual assault. As
you know, sexual assault is a crime that contradicts the core values that
DOD, the military services,' and the Coast Guard expect servicemembers
to follow, such as treating their fellow members with dignity and respect.
Recognizing this, Congress in 2004 directed the Secretary of Defense to
develop a comprehensive policy for DOD on the prevention of and
response to sexual assaults involving servicemembers, including an option
that would enable servicemembers to confidentially disclose an incident of
sexual assault. Since 2005, active duty servicemembers have had two
options for reporting an alleged sexual assault: (1) restricted, which allows
victims of sexual assault to disclose a sexual assault incident to specific
individuals and receive medical care and other victim advocacy services
without initiating a criminal investigation; and (2) unrestricted, which
entails notification of the chain of command and may trigger a criminal
investigation. Although these requirements do not apply to the Coast
Guard, which is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, the
Coast Guard has adopted similar reporting options.
Mr. Chairman, you have recognized the need to shed light on this
important issue. Specifically, you asked GAO to examine sexual assault
prevention and response programs at the military academies as well as at
military installations within DOD and the Coast Guard and during
deployments. In response, we issued a report in January 2008 that
reviewed programs to address sexual assault and sexual harassment at the
military and Coast Guard academies.2 This August, we will issue our
follow-on report examining DOD's and the Coast Guard's programs to
prevent and respond to sexual assault, including during deployments. A
draft of this report is currently with the agencies for comment. Thus, our
findings and recommendations have not been finalized.
'For purposes of this testimony, we use the term "military services" to refer collectively to
the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. While the Coast Guard is a military service, it
generally falls under the control of the Department of Homeland Security and not the
Department of Defense. Therefore, we address the Coast Guard separately from the other
2GAO, Military Personnel: The DOD and Coast Guard Academies Have Taken Steps to
Address Incidents of Sexual Harassment and Assault, but Greater Federal Oversight Is
Needed, GAO-08-296 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 17, 2008).
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Military Personnel: Preliminary Observations on DOD's and the Coast Guard's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Programs, text, July 31, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc295317/m1/3/: accessed September 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.