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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will reassess military sexual assault prevention programs

As his first directive in office, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a memorandum requesting his top military commanders to send him reports on sexual assault prevention programs and to evaluate which programs worked and which did not. Why it matters: Military leaders have steadfastly wrestled. An increase in reports of sexual misconduct since 2006. This consistent trend has alarmed senators, who have repeatedly asked Austin how he plans to address the issue during his fixation hearings, according to the AP. Get smarter and faster with the news read by CEOs, entrepreneurs and senior politicians. Subscribe to the Axios newsletter here. * Austin agreed that this was a matter of urgency, telling the senators, “This starts with me and you can count on me getting it right on the first day.” * Lawmakers have repeatedly called for action, including changes to the Military Justice Law. In the numbers: According to the department’s reports, there was a 13% rise in reporting in 2018 and a 3% increase in 2019. * Nate Galbraith, Acting Vice President. The Pentagon’s Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response said the increase in reports indicates that more people are willing to come forward and thus gain confidence in the justice system. * Last April he also stated that he was cautiously optimistic that the low increase in 2019 reports indicated a trend of diminishing attacks. Where it is: Last year, officials announced a new system that any victim who refuses to file a public criminal report can file. Details about their alleged attacker so investigators can assess whether they were involved in other crimes, and what next: Austin plans to host a meeting on the matter with senior leaders in the coming days. * Each leader should provide a summary of the assault and sexual harassment measures they took in the past year and assess which are promising and which are not. * Austin also requested relevant data for the past decade, including efforts to support victims. * He also mentioned in his memo, “Include in your report a consideration of new approaches to any of these areas,” adding, “We should not be afraid of creativity.” Supporting safe, intelligent and rational journalism. Subscribe to the Axios newsletter here.

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