June 04, 2013

Manchin to Military Leadership on Sexual Assault: It's Intolerable to Continue on This Path

Manchin questions senior military leadership on sexual assault during Senate Armed Services Committee hearing

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) asked questions to military leadership today during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on how officials plan to prevent sexual crimes and better protect victims of sexual assault in the military.

The nation’s top military leaders unanimously voiced their opposition to changing current rules that allow commanders to decide whether or not to prosecute accused assailants. However, military leaders admitted the Armed Forces had lost focus on sexual assault.

“There is a history of sexual assault repeating itself and nothing has been done,” Senator Manchin said. “With each sexual assault case that has caught public scrutiny in the past, the Department of Defense leaders tell us, ‘never again’ or ‘we have zero tolerance for such inappropriate actions.’ But what has changed? How do you prevent the legacy of abuse from continuing? I plan to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect victims of sexual assault and make sure we can prevent sexual crimes from occurring in our military ranks.”

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, candidly told Senator Manchin that, while leadership’s focus was on fighting two wars, little had changed over 20 years of negative publicity. General Dempsey stated, “Frankly, I think I took my eye off the ball.” 

Witnesses who sat on the Armed Services Committee hearing panel included: General Martin E. Dempsey; General Raymond T. Odierno; Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert; General James F. Amos; General Mark A. Welsh III; Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr.; Lieutenant General Dana K. Chipman; Vice Admiral Nanette M. DeRenzi; Lieutenant General Richard C. Harding; Major General Vaughn A. Ary; Rear Admiral Frederick J. Kenney, Jr.; Brigadier General Richard C. Gross; Colonel Donna W. Martin,; Captain Stephen J. Coughlin; Colonel Tracy W. King; Colonel Jeannie M. Leavitt; President of Protect Our Defenders, Nancy Parrish; Executive Director and Co-Founder of Service Women’s Action Network, Anu Bhagwati; Major General John D. Altenburg, Jr. and Colonel Lawrence J. Morris.

Senator Manchin will also submit the following questions into the record for the Pentagon to answer:

What legislative fix would you make to help solve this problem?

It is assumed that individuals with sexual assault or battery convictions on their record will not be accepted into the military. Is there a system in place to record if someone receives a civilian sexual assault charge or conviction after they join the service? What action does the military take once this a conviction is discovered?

Commanders have a lot of power and there are so many good commanders in the military, but a few bad ones can ruin the bunch. What programs does the military have in place to recruit the very best commanders? Are there incentives to put the best in command and send the rest somewhere else?

Based on trends in sexual assault statistics that the military has gathered, are there organized prevention programs in place?