Top US general reduces opposition to changes in military sexual assault policy

In a potentially significant shift in the debate on combating sexual harassment in the military, the country’s top general says he is abandoning his opposition to a proposal to decide on the prosecution of sexual harassment at the hands of commanders.

General Mark Miley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped short of endorsing the changes suggested by the independent review panel. But in an interview with The Associated Press and CNN, Miley said he is now open to considering them as the problem of sexual harassment in the military persists despite other efforts to solve it.

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“We’ve been at it for years, and we haven’t moved the needle effectively,” he said. “We have to. We must.”

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Miley’s remarks, as arguably the most influential officer and senior military adviser to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and US President Joe Biden, are likely to carry considerable weight among service chiefs and provide momentum for change.

Austin, himself a former senior commander and former vice president of the military, has not publicly commented on the review commission’s proposal, but it is his creation and as such its recommendations are seen as particularly weighty . Lawmakers are also pushing for change.

Miley said he would reserve a decision on the proposal to seek prosecution authority on sexual harassment cases away from commanders until the Review Commission finishes its work and its recommendations are thoroughly debated within the military ranks.

The Review Commission presented its initial recommendations for Austin at the end of last month. Officials have said that they expect it to give service leaders about a month to review and provide feedback.

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The review panel said that for some specific victim offenses, independent judge advocates reporting to the civilian-led office of the Chief Justice Victim Prosecutor decide two key legal questions: whether or not to charge someone, ultimately, if that charge Should go to court martial. The offenses will include sexual harassment, sexual harassment and possibly some hate crimes.

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It goes against the understanding and the Pentagon for a long time for such steps.

“I had been opposing it for years,” said Miley, a military flight speaking during Sunday. “But I have not seen the needle move” – ​​referring to the failure to reduce the number of reported sexual assaults.

Indeed, in response to policy questions for the Senate confirmation hearing of July 2019, Miley wrote: “Commanders in their formation must maintain the ability to hold all service members accountable for their actions. Disciplined service members To, the right to involve courts-martial, is an important tool that enables commanders to fulfill their responsibility to their people and establish a suitable culture where victims are treated with respect and dignity is. “

In his comments on Sunday, Miley said that he has shifted his thinking partly because he is concerned with signs of lack of confidence by junior enlisted service members in the fairness of the results of the sexual harassment case. He said that this is an erosion of trust in the military chain of the military.

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“It is true that it is bad for our military if it is true, and the survey and evidence it is true,” he said. “It’s a really bad situation if the enlisted force – junior force force – lacks confidence in their chain to be able to deal effectively with the issue of sexual assault.”

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The sexual assault has long plagued the military, widely condemning Congress and frustrated military leaders struggling to find work to stop, remediate and prosecute efforts. In the most recent Department of Defense biennial anonymous surveys conducted in 2018, more than 20,000 service members said they experienced some form of sexual assault, but only a third of them filed formal reports.

According to Pentagon data, formal reports of sexual assaults have steadily increased since 2006, including a 13 percent jump in 2018 and a 3 percent increase in 2019. Data for 2020 is not yet available.

© 2021 Canadian Press


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