Pentagon told to do more to monitor hazing

Pentagon told to do more to monitor hazing
© Greg Nash

The Pentagon and the Coast Guard do not sufficiently track hazing incidents in their ranks, which limits their ability to address the issue, a Government Accountability Office report has found.

The study follows the suicide of an Army private in Afghanistan who was reportedly subjected to verbal and physical hazing, and the suicide of a lance corporal in the Marines who was allegedly beaten in a hazing incident. 

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In the report released Tuesday, GAO found the Army, Navy and Marines track reports of hazing. But the data collected and tracking methods vary, so their data is not complete and consistent, according to the report.

“Despite several hazing incidents coming to public attention in recent years, DOD and the Coast Guard do not regularly monitor implementation of their hazing policies and do not know the extent of hazing in their organizations,” the report concludes.

“Without effective monitoring by DOD, the Coast Guard and each of the services, the offices with responsibility for addressing hazing will not know whether hazing prevention policies and training are being consistently implemented.”

Congress asked the GAO to look into the services' hazing policies after a series of high-profile incidents.

Seven members of the Coast Guard, which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, were convicted through court martials for charges related to hazing behaviors from 2007 through 2009.

Between Dec. 2012 and Dec. 2014, the report found that the Marines reported 303 cases of hazing. But GAO said some of those could be duplicates and cases could be overstated by at least 100.

The Army had 18 reports, but those only constitute cases investigated by Army Criminal Investigation Command or military police.

And the Navy reported 73, but those are only substantiated reports.

The Air Force and the Coast Guard, meanwhile, don’t have a method for specifically tracking hazing.

GAO found four cases of hazing in Air Force and seven in the Coast Guard by searching legal databases for the word hazing.

“The data that are currently collected on hazing incidents are neither complete or consistent, and data obtained through other sources, such as surveys, suggest that hazing may be more widespread in the military services and the Coast Guard than the current numbers of reports indicate,” the report reads.

In a letter responding to the draft GAO report, the Pentagon agreed with the report’s recommendations and highlighted the fact that the Pentagon’s hazing policy was updated in December.

“The policy provides comprehensive definitions of hazing and bullying, enterprise-wide guidance on prevention training and education, as well as reporting and tracking requirements,” the Pentagon’s response says.

The Coast Guard also agreed with the recommendations and promised to research ways to improve its existing database to have better data.

“In short, the Coast Guard does not tolerate hazing,” its response reads. “Hazing is contrary to the organization’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty.”