Story at a glance

  • President Biden on Monday described sexual assault in the military as a threat to national security.
  • During an event to mark International Women’s Day, he announced the nominations of two female military officers to become four-star commanders.
  • He also signed two executive orders focused on sexual assault and gender equality.

President Biden on Monday promised an “all-hands-on-deck effort” from his administration to address sexual assault in the military. 

“We have to take on sexual assault and harassment and violence against women in the military. Sexual assault is a abhorrent and wrong at any time. And in our military, where so much of unit cohesion is built on trusting your fellow service members to have your back, there’s nothing less than a threat to our national security,” Biden said Monday. 


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“This is going to be an all-hands-on-deck effort under my administration to end the scourge of sexual assault in the military.  And we’re going to be focused on that from the very top,” Biden said. 

The president noted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin set up an independent review commission on sexual assault in the military ranks to make “concrete recommendations” for changes. 

Biden’s promise to address the pervasive problem came during remarks in which he announced the nomination of two female officers to become four-star commanders to mark International Women’s Day. The president nominated Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost of the Air Force to be commander of the U.S. Transportation Command and Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson of the Army to be commander of the U.S. Southern Command. 

The New York Times reported last month that the promotions of the two top female generals were delayed in 2020 because top Department of Defense officials worried former President Trump would accuse the Pentagon of playing politics by nominating due to their gender. 

“When confirmed, they will become the second and third women in the history of the United States Armed Forces to lead combatant commands,” Biden said. 

Also on Monday, Biden signed an executive order to establish a Gender Policy Council at the White House. The council will focus on advancing gender equity and equality, including policies to “combat systemic biases and discrimination, including sexual harassment, and to support women’s human rights.” 

A second order directed the Department of Education to review a controversial policy from the Trump administration on how colleges and universities handle sexual assault cases.


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Published on Mar 09, 2021