Pentagon prepares new regs for responses to sexual assault cases

The White House has completed its review of new Defense Department guidelines for preventing and responding to sexual assault cases in the military, records from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) show. 

The regulations are being finalized amid renewed calls from lawmakers to address the problem, which is estimated to affect as many as 19,000 servicewomen a year.

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Among the provisions contained in the new rules is the proposed creation of a Sexual Assault Advisory Council at the Defense Department to oversee the enactment of the new policies. The new guidelines would clarify where certain responsibilities lie when it comes to reporting and reacting to sexual assault reports.

They also involve the medical treatment of sexual assault patients and options allowing victims to remain confidential when reporting the crimes.

“The intent of the program is to prevent and eliminate sexual assault within the Department by providing comprehensive procedures to better establish a culture of prevention, response, and accountability that enhances the safety and well-being of all DoD members,” according to OMB’s description of the new regulations.

The Pentagon estimates costs associated with implementing the guidelines at just over $14.8 million, but each military branch would establish and budget for its own sexual assault prevention and response program.

Earlier this week, the Defense Department came under fire from Capitol Hill lawmakers who offered harsh criticism of the military’s handling of the assault issue.

Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel are incensed over a case at Aviano Air Base in Italy, where a lieutenant general tossed out a one-year prison sentence for an airman convicted of sexual assault.

Lawmakers from the panel said they are also considering major changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice that could include stripping commanders of judicial powers.