New Defense secretary orders assessment of sexual assault prevention programs
Newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has reportedly requested reports on military sexual assault prevention programs from senior leadership and ordered a review of them
According to The Associated Press, Austin requested an assessment of sexual assault and harassment prevention measures that have been shown to be effective and ineffective within the past year as well as relevant data from the past 10 years.
“Include in your report the consideration of novel approaches to any of these areas,” Austin reportedly wrote to senior Pentagon officials. “We must not be afraid to get creative.”
According to the AP, Austin acknowledged in his memo that the military has had a long-standing problem with sexual assault.
Austin was repeatedly pressed on the issue of sexual assault and harassment during his confirmation hearing. The retired general had pledged to address the issue if confirmed.
“If confirmed, I will fight hard to stamp out sexual assault and to rid our ranks of racists and extremists and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity,” Austin said during his hearing.
The AP notes that reported military sexual assaults have continued to rise since 2006, climbing by 13 percent in 2018 and 3 percent in 2019. The news service reports that Austin has planned a meeting with senior military leadership on the topic in the coming days.
Austin, the first Black U.S. Pentagon head, was sworn in on Friday. He is among the first of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees to be confirmed into office. Concerns have been raised that the confirmation process for Biden’s nominees may be delayed as the Senate prepares for former President Trump’s second impeachment trial.
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