Story by: Jim Garamone, AFPS
WASHINGTON – The seven new initiatives to combat sexual assault announced by Department of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel continue the pressure on an issue that can erode the effectiveness of the military, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.
"Every service member and DoD civilian deserves a safe environment in which they are free from the threat of sexual harassment and assault," Little said during an Aug. 15 Pentagon news conference.
Little, along with Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, director, Joint Staff, briefed reporters.
Hagel's initiatives build on the analysis of DoD sexual assault prevention and response programs.
"These include measures to improve victim support, strengthen pre-trial investigations, enhance oversight, and make prevention and response efforts more consistent across the military services," Little said.
The measures will incorporate the best practices of the services and make them common throughout the armed forces, Wright said. She also said she believes they will enhance the quality of the investigative and legal process and improve victim support.
"We are committed to a dynamic and responsive sexual assault prevention program," she said. "Through the multidiscipline program, we constantly work to identify new ways to prevent sexual assault, as well as respond effectively and appropriately should a crime occur."
Wright stressed that prevention and response efforts are not static.
"We continually evaluate our programs and seek ways for the department to improve them," she said.
Scaparrotti said sexual assault is a serious and persistent problem in the military.
"It erodes the trust that is the bedrock of our profession," he said. "Sexual assault is a crime, and it demands appropriate accountability. We are fully committed to combating sexual harassment and sexual assault in our ranks."
The bottom line of the initiatives is to make it clear that "sexual assault is not tolerated, not condoned, it is not ignored, and everyone in the department … is responsible to uphold our values and continue an environment of dignity and respect for all," Wright said.