Blog No. 1 Sexual Assaults in the Military

Is there anyone who does not believe that the disclosures of sexual assaults in the military are appalling? The official Pentagon report, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, indicated that, between 2010 and 2012, reported incidents of sexual assaults had increased from 3,192 to 3,374. Even more troubling is the fact that many sexual assaults go unreported, resulting in an estimate that the total number of sexual assaults rose from 19,300 to 26,000. Public concern with the issue has been heightened by a compelling documentary, The Invisible War, the report of a criminal conviction by a military court being overturned by a commanding general, and by the recent arrest, on charges of sexual assault, of the very officer, Lt. Col Jeffrey Kusinski, who had been in charge of the Air Force’s program to prevent sexual assaults.
President Obama has not acknowledged any responsibility for the situation as Commander in Chief for the past four years, and while he has now demanded reform from the Pentagon, it is not clear what specifics, if any, he has in mind. On Capitol Hill, the issue has generated activity but it remains unclear how much action it will produce. Notably, the most conspicuous advocates of reform have been women of both parties. The clearest Democratic voices have come from Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Diane Feinstein of California, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Patty Murray of Washington. On the Republican side Senators Linda Murkowski of Alaska, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Susan Collins of Maine have each introduced legislation. Males in both parties have had much less to say (Republican Michael Turner of Ohio being a notable exception).
In general, Republicans on Capitol Hill have been relatively quiet on the treatment of women in the military, having much less to say about it than on the Benghazi debacle or the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Both of the latter are, notwithstanding the President’s protestations, serious matters deserving of scrutiny. But in the long run, the abuse of women in the military is probably even more important. It is, therefore, an issue on which Republicans should demonstrate leadership – as a Party and not merely through the actions of a few individual Senators and Congressmen. Indeed, the most compelling reason for doing so is that it is a problem of national security that cries out for an effective response. Women today constitute approximately 15% of our armed forces and fill crucial roles. Ironically, their importance to the military was recently highlighted by the decision that women would even be permitted to serve in combat units. Thus, even apart from considerations of morality and justice, it should be obvious that maintaining the morale of these dedicated women should be a priority of the first order. We cannot expect to retain their service, and attract new recruits, in an atmosphere where they are subject to sexual predation.
The second reason for Republican leadership is that the issue is a complex one, which is unlikely to be resolved without careful legislating and bipartisan support. The solutions to the problem are not obvious — if they were, the myriad of programs and initiatives described in the Pentagon’s report of nearly 1,500 pages would have been more effective. One difficult issue is whether, or to what extent, prosecution of alleged sexual crimes should be removed from the chain of command and handled independently as called for in some recently introduced bills. Such a change (adopted in the military forces of Great Britain, Canada and other U.S. allies) would diminish the fear of retaliation against complainants and instill greater confidence in the system. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, however, has resisted such a change on the grounds that it might undermine the authority and responsibility of commanders to maintain good order and discipline. Similar concerns have been expressed by Senator Lindsey Graham:
“The military’s a unique place; it’s not a democracy…. When it comes to good order and discipline of a command, we have generally held the view that the one person that has the power to determine good order and discipline — and to make sure it’s present — is the military commander.”
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“I understand this is an emotional issue, but what they are trying to do is going to do more harm to the military than solve the sexual assault problem.”
However legitimate the concerns expressed by Secretary Hegel and Senator Graham may be, deference to “good order and discipline” cannot justify continuation of the status quo. Clearly this is an area in which a creative solution is required. Specifically, it must be possible to create a structure that retains a commander’s essential authority while protecting alleged victims from retaliation. A bill jointly sponsored by Senators Murray and Ayotte reflects one approach by providing, among other things, that alleged victims be furnished independent counsel. That approach and similar proposals deserve to be fully explored and Republicans should play a constructive role in doing so. In the past, Republicans have been damaged by insensitive remarks about rape by a few of their number. That must not happen again.
Indeed, the exercise of positive leadership on this issue would be a much needed step on the part of Republicans in regaining some of the support it has lost among women. The alienation of significant numbers of women from the Republican Party was amply documented in the 2012 elections at both the Presidential and Congressional levels. Playing a constructive role here will not erase past and continuing differences on other issues, but it would be a help in maintaining that the Party is not engaged in a “war on women.”
May 18, 2013

4 thoughts on “Blog No. 1 Sexual Assaults in the Military

  • Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thank you Nonetheless I’m experiencing issue with ur rss . Don? know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting equivalent rss problem? Anyone who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

    • Hello. There are a few ways to subscribe, but we’ll do it manually. We don’t have RSS set up yet, but we’re working on adding that. Thanks for the interest and following!

  • I share the concern of the Rhino's and join with them in seeking solutions to the sexual assult issue in the military. Larry says:

    Sexual assault in the military is a most important issue in need of a solution. As citizens I enjoin all Americans in finding solutions irregardless of political affilitation. LMH

  • An excellent piece on a simple issue with a complex solution.

    Renew my subscription at once!

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