Last year, an independent review commission mandated by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III issued a set of recommendations aimed at stopping sexual assault and harassment in the military. Today, the Department of Defense is on track to implement these recommendations, said the Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
On Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr. told lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee that the Department of Defense now has a framework to track the implementation and effectiveness of its efforts and provide regular reviews of progress through high-level leadership forums, including membership from across the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Services.
“The level of oversight is a marked departure from previous reform efforts in this area, and not only are we making progress, we are also building the infrastructure needed to bring about real, lasting change and restore trust in our service members,” said Cisneros.
Part of that infrastructure, Cisneros said, is the development of a professional sexual assault and harassment workforce.
“At full capacity [it] will include over 2,000 employees stationed around the world,” he said. to identify these prevention professionals more quickly and get them on board.”
The Defense Ministry is also working with the military services to professionalize victim support, Cisneros said. Professionalizing this job means the Department of Defense and its services would no longer have to rely on military personnel, who may now be doing this work as a sideline to their regular military work. This workforce will also be outside the chain of command as part of efforts to regain the trust of victims of sexual assault and harassment.
Cisneros also told lawmakers that the department, with its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Training and Education Center, will soon reach initial operational capability.
“Another significant endeavor at the [Defense] Department is military justice reform through the establishment of the Offices of Special Trials Advisers,” Cisneros said. “These efforts will ensure independent expertise and prosecutorial decisions and are essential to restoring trust and holding perpetrators of sexual assault to account.”
According to Cisneros, the offices of the Special Trial Counsel will ensure independent, specialized expertise in prosecutorial decisions for the crimes covered of sexual assault, domestic violence and related crimes.
“The department has clearly heard from our service staff that action and change are urgently needed, and the department is responding to that call,” Cisneros said. “To get this right, we need to act as quickly as possible to implement change while making sure we don’t rush to failure.”