GAO: Sexual assault investigations not a high priority for DOD; the illegal use of stamps, however…

CBS News:

Sexual assault investigations and related training for investigators are not a high priority for the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, according to a recent government report.

The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found the DOD IG’s office has not developed a policy and sufficiently overseen sexual assault investigations conducted by the various DOD criminal investigation organizations. The report also accuses the office of not providing adequate training for sexual assault investigators. The Department of Defense Inspector General’s office is responsible for reviewing sexual assault investigations to see if they were conducted properly. In 2009, 3,230 sexual assault investigations were reported.

Service Women’s Action Network:

By Greg Jacob
Former Marine Infantry Captain and Policy Director, Service Women’s Action Network.

The GAO report this week entitled “Military Justice: Oversight and Better Collaboration Needed for Sexual Assault Investigations and Adjudications” is a scathing analysis of the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Inspector General (IG) and its lack of attention to the issue of rape and sexual assault in the military. The report states that the DoD IG’s Office was told to develop policy and oversee sexual assault investigations in June 2006. According to the report, however, “The [IG Office] has not performed these responsibilities, primarily because it believes it has other, higher priorities.”

A controversial statement indeed, considering that the Secretary of Defense has declared on numerous occasions that eliminating sexual is “now a command priority.” The IG is one of those commands, and reports directly to the Secretary.

The mission of the DoD IG is to “Promote integrity, accountability, and improvement of Department of Defense personnel, programs and operations, to support the Department’s mission and serve the public interest,” and to “serve as a benchmark for organizational excellence for the rest of the government.”

Oversight of rape investigations and preventing rape and sexual assault of military personnel clearly falls under the agency’s purview, and with the additional guidance from the Defense Secretary and the Congressional mandate from 2006, sexual assault oversight should be a clear priority. Instead, this benchmark for excellence has chosen to prioritize its valuable time and critical resources to investigating other things.

According to the 2010 DoD IG’s semi-annual report to Congress, here are some highlights of the IG’s recent work:

· An IG investigation determined that Allergan promoted Botox for off-label indications that were not medically accepted and therefore not covered by federal health care programs.

· A DOD senior official accepted sporting event tickets and parking from a prohibited source, presented coin awards to contractor employees, and used official time and government resources to coordinate and attend the event.

· A general officer misused government resources to support his private Christmas party in violation of the Joint Ethics Regulation.

· A general used official postage for unofficial purposes, and failed to use the government Travel Charge Card for official travel as required by law.

Botox, Christmas parties and stamps. These issues indeed fall under the purview of the agency. However, I would challenge Gordon Heddel, the DOD’s Inspector General to present this list to any of the over 19,000 servicemembers who the DoD estimates were sexually assaulted last year, and see if they consider these “higher priorities” than providing oversight of military sexual assault investigations.

Oversight of investigations and adjudications of sexual assaults is critical in helping to curb the epidemic of military sexual violence. Right now prosecution rates for sex crimes in the military are abysmal. According to numbers from the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), in 2010 only 3,158 out of 19,000+ sexual assaults were reported to authorities, and less than 21 percent of the reported cases actually went to trial. Once in a courtroom, 53 percent, or 281 cases resulted in a conviction.

Ensuring cases of sexual assault are properly handled and prosecuted increases the likelihood of perpetrators facing justice. And justice—Botox and Christmas parties notwithstanding—should be the IG’s highest priority.

Greg Jacob
Policy Director
Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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