DoD Admits It Needs a Culture Change

DoD released this week its FY 2016 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. The following day, the House Armed Services Committee's (HASC's) Military Personnel Subcommittee held a hearing on “Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies.”

DoD reported that while the prevalence of sexual assault in the military decreased last year, it is still at an unacceptably high rate of 14,900 reported assaults. Twelve percent of service academy students report being sexually assaulted, and approximately 50 percent report being sexually harassed during their time at the academies.

Our parent organization, the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) was present for DoD press briefings and the HASC hearing. A consistent theme emerged: DoD must change the culture in the military to one of dignity and respect if it is to combat sexual harassment and assault. During the HASC hearing, Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) stated it is clear military culture has yet to fully embrace gender diversity. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), an alumna of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., compared service academy culture to Lord of the Flies, the novel by William Golding.

DoD stated it is “advancing a military culture where sexist behaviors, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are not tolerated, condoned, or ignored.” Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) noted “whoever is in leadership sets the tone” and questioned how to make military leaders set the right command climate to prevent sexual assault and harassment.

Congress will be seeking to address this issue through legislation and continuing oversight.