Gillibrand questions DOD moves on sexual assault study

Anne Wernikoff

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has asked the Defense Department to explain its decision to outsource a potentially crucial survey on sexual assaults to an outside contractor.

Gillibrand questioned why the Pentagon decided to tap the Rand Corp. to carry out the biennial examination of gender issues for active duty military members in a letter to Jessica Wright, acting defense secretary for personnel and readiness.

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The study has been conducted by an agency within the Pentagon since 1988, the New York lawmaker noted. She also asked if the defense contractor intended to alter the survey’s methodology, including the definitions of key terms, such as unwanted sexual contact.

“Changes to methodology, definitions or survey questions will preclude comparison to previous years, hiding any progress the Armed Forces may have made,” Gillibrand said in the missive.

The Pentagon delegated the survey to the independent analysis firm because many observers questioned how the survey was conducted as well as its overall accuracy, according to one defense official.

“There were a lot of people questioning the survey, the accuracy, how it was done,” the official said.

Rand will make sure it uses methodology so that its examination is not useless, comparison-wide, the official added.

The results of the study will be sent to President Obama before the end of the year and will be released publicly next spring.

Gillibrand tried, unsuccessfully, to revamp the military justice system with a bill that failed to move forward in the Senate in March. Her legislation would have eliminated the chain of command when prosecuting sexual assaults and other military crimes.

She had used statistics from previous reviews in her arguments to overhaul the justice system. 

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