Democrat pushes stronger policies against hazing in military

Democrat pushes stronger policies against hazing in military
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A congresswoman whose nephew committed suicide while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan is pressing Congress to take action after a government watchdog report found the Pentagon isn’t doing enough to prevent hazing.

“I’ve made it my mission to end hazing in our armed services because it is unacceptable and indefensible,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.

Chu was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee as part of its annual “Member Day,” when non-committee members lay out what they want included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last month found the Pentagon and the Coast Guard aren’t adequately tracking hazing incidents in their ranks. That, in turn, is limiting their ability to address the issue.

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

The suicide of Chu’s nephew, Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, was one a slew of high-profile hazing incidents that prompted Congress to ask for the GAO report.

On Tuesday, Chu detailed the abuse her nephew suffered: fellow Marines subjected him to four hours of “corrective training” that included forcing him to carry a 25-pound sand bag, beating him and smothering him with the bag. Lew committed suicide 22 minutes after the hazing, she said.

One Marine pleaded guilty to assault, while two others were found not guilty by a military court.

Chu outlined four provisions she wants the committee to include in the NDAA in response to the GAO report.

First, she said, the Pentagon should submit a report to Congress to ensure anti-hazing policies are implemented consistently. Second, Congress should require the Pentagon to improve existing anti-hazing training.

Third, Congress should make the Pentagon create a department-wide policy on how to track hazing instead of leaving it up the individual services. And finally, she said, department-wide surveys should be created to determine the prevalence of hazing.

“Only when he have these changes in place can we truly begin to eliminate hazing in the military,” she said.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the committee, said the committee is reviewing the GAO report.

“We want to look at that carefully,” he told Chu, “and will absolutely consider your suggestions on how to further get better information so that we can see what may be appropriate.”