The U.S. military Wednesday announced its plan to implement a series of recommendations for dealing with sexual assault and sexual harassment among its personnel.
An independent review panel presented a series of actions the Defense Department should take to address accountability, prevention, culture and victim care.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday approved a roadmap to carry out those steps, saying he expects Pentagon leaders to “move swiftly and deliberately to implement it.”
“I have been clear since my first full day as Secretary of Defense that we must do more to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment from the ranks. I stated from the outset that this is a leadership issue, and we will lead,” Austin said in a memo.
Some of the recommendations are already being put into place, but others require identifying and hiring staff, and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told reporters it could take until 2027 to fully implement the first of four stages of the plan.
Pentagon officials described the first phase as the most comprehensive and a foundation for the overall changes.Its reforms include removing prosecution of sexual assaults and harassment from the military chain of command, establishing independent investigators for sexual assault, holding personnel accountable for cyber harassment, and looking at the ways allied countries compensate sexual assault victims.
A 2018 Pentagon survey estimated that more than 20,000 U.S. service members experienced sexual assault that year.