• Published
  • By Mr. Chuck Hagel
  • Secretary of Defense
Eliminating sexual assault from the armed forces remains one of the
Department of Defense's top priorities. This effort requires our absolute
and sustained commitment to providing a safe environment in which every
service member and DoD civilian is free from the threat of sexual harassment
and assault. Our success depends on a dynamic and responsive approach. We,
therefore, must continually assess and strive to improve our prevention and
response programs.

In May, I directed a range of initiatives designed to strengthen our
programs in the areas of commander accountability, command climate, victim
advocacy, and safety. Today, I am directing immediate implementation of the
following additional measures to improve victim support, strengthen pretrial
investigations, enhance oversight, and make prevention and response efforts
more consistent across the military services:

. Creating a legal advocacy program in each military service that will
provide legal representation to sexual assault victims throughout the
judicial process;

. Ensuring that pretrial investigative hearings of sexual
assault-related charges are conducted by judge advocates general (JAG)

. Providing commanders with options to reassign or transfer a member
who is accused of committing a sexual assault or related offense in order to
eliminate continued contact while respecting the rights of both victims and
the accused;

. Requiring timely follow-up reports on sexual assault incidents and
responses to be given to the first general or flag officer within the chain
of command;

. Directing DoD's inspector general to regularly evaluate closed
sexual assault investigations;

. Standardizing prohibitions on inappropriate behavior between
recruiters and trainers and their recruits and trainees across the
department, and;

. Developing and proposing changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial
that would allow victims to give input during the sentencing phase of

All of these measures will provide victims additional rights, protections,
and legal support, and help ensure that sexual assault-related
investigations and judicial proceedings are conducted thoroughly and
professionally. In addition, the Department of Defense has established an
independent panel, in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act
for Fiscal Year 2013, which is currently reviewing and assessing the systems
used to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate crimes involving sexual
assault and related offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I
have met with panel members and I will closely review their recommendations
when complete.

Sexual assault is a stain on the honor of our men and women who honorably
serve our country, as well as a threat to the discipline and the cohesion of
our force. It must be stamped out. I will continue to meet weekly with
DoD's senior leadership team to personally review our efforts and ensure
that directives and programs are being implemented effectively. We are all
accountable to fix this problem, and we will fix it together. We will
continue to work closely with the Congress and the White House on
eliminating sexual assault in the military.