Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Business groups, sensing victory, keep up pressure over tax hikes Kelly raises million in third quarter MORE (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday said that acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanProtection of critical military benefit shows bipartisanship can work Senators introducing bill to penalize Pentagon for failed audits Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee MORE has agreed to immediately form a Pentagon task force to combat sexual assault
“My goal, and the goal of the Department of Defense, is to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment in the United States military,” Shanahan said in a statement. “DoD leadership is committed to fixing this and I look forward to working with Senator McSally and our taskforce to find solutions that will eliminate this issue from our ranks.”
In a letter to Shanahan sent Monday, McSally requested that he set up the task force, which would be comprised of herself, “representative experts from all military services, and specialized civilian experts, to take a deep dive into this issue.”
She asked that the task force “begin meeting immediately with a goal of having recommendations ready” for the markup of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). McSally also wants the task force to meet with her next week to go over ideas.
In a statement accompanying the letter, McSally noted that “within hours of sending the letter,” Shanahan responded via phone “and agreed to take steps to form the task force.”
A former A-10 pilot and squadron commander, McSally earlier this month shocked her Senate colleagues and Air Force leaders when she revealed during a hearing that she was raped by a superior years ago while serving in the military branch.
Since then, she has requested an executive summit with top Air Force leaders, including Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein to discuss preventing sexual assault in the military.
And last week during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, McSally pressed Shanahan for his commitment on tackling the issue, which he gave.
“In 2017, there were 6,769 sexual assaults reported across our entire military, likely thousands of others that were not reported. ... Many steps have been taken by the military over the last years and this body — over 100 legislative actions. But it's not enough,” McSally said at the time.
“We have weeks now before the NDAA will be marked up before this committee. I am fully locked on like a missile on this target, and I want to be working with you and the military services to take a fresh look at this,” she added.