Yesterday, I received the final recommendations and complete report of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment.
I want to thank Lynn Rosenthal for her exceptional leadership of this commission, as well as the talented experts who worked so diligently to support her. The work they produced was informed not only by their own significant experience, but by that of so many members of our military, including sexual assault survivors.
The result is a comprehensive assessment across four lines of effort — accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support — that recommends creative and evidence-based options. It provides us real opportunities to finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.
In coming days, I will present to President Biden my specific recommendations about the commission’s findings, but I know enough at this point to state the following:
First, we will work with Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice, removing the prosecution of sexual assaults and related crimes from the military chain of command.
The IRC recommended the inclusion of other special victims’ crimes inside this independent prosecution system, to include domestic violence. I support this as well, given the strong correlation between these sorts of crimes and the prevalence of sexual assault.
Second, solving this problem requires not just greater accountability, which we need, but also changes to our approach on prevention, command climate, and victim services. I am reviewing the full scope of the commission’s recommendations in these areas, but generally they appear strong and well-grounded. I have directed my staff to do a detailed assessment and implementation plan for my review and approval.
Third, the Department will need new resources and authorities necessary to implement the IRC’s recommendations. Those we believe we can implement under existing authorities will be given priority. We will need to work closely with Congress to secure additional authorities and relief where needed. We will most assuredly require additional resources, both in personnel and in funding. But it may take us some time to determine how much and where they are most wisely applied.
Finally, as in all other things, these changes demand leadership. I appreciate the support that the Department’s civilian and military leaders have provided to the commission, and the thoughtfulness with which they have advised me as we develop effective ways to implement the changes we need to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment from our ranks.
As I made clear on my first full day in office, this is a leadership issue. And we will lead. Our people depend upon it. They deserve nothing less.