By David VergunApril 24, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 24, 2013) -- In the third year of its campaign against sexual assault and harassment, the Army is focusing on cultural change, more effective training, and prosecutorial efforts that use a "team approach."
Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, deputy chief of staff, Army G-1, fielded questions on sexual assault as well as a number of other concerns from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, subcommittee on military personnel, which held an oversight hearing on personnel programs, April 24.
Thomas R. Lamont, assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, also testified, along with personnel chiefs from the other services.
It is admittedly difficult to gauge cultural shifts in willingness to report sexual abuse and harassment, Bromberg said, but the Army has tried to measure the changing climate with its own internal surveys.
He cited a survey at the beginning of the campaign that showed a 28 percent "propensity to report" sexual harassment or assault by female victims. A later report showed a 42 percent propensity -- a pretty significant increase.
Bromberg cautioned that the report is more of a leading indicator than a scientific study. He added that there was a similar increase in propensity to report for the much smaller group of male victims.
Increases in reporting sexual assault and harassment do not necessarily have a direct correlation with an increase in the number of sexual assaults and harassment, Bromberg said.
Rather, he said, it is a greater willingness of victims to step forward. He attributed that to the higher degree of awareness, training and willingness of leaders in the chain of command to lend a more sympathetic ear to the problem.
The "team approach" against sexual assault, as Bromberg termed it, is now in full swing. Today, the Army has hired 829 full-time victim advocates and sexual response coordinators who are all trained and nationally certified. More than 9,000 others are working part-time.
Also hired were an additional 20 special prosecutors, 30 lab technicians and 10 advocates. Those advocates work with commanders to help them understand the problem better and assist in implementation of processes and training to reduce sexual assaults and harassment, he said.
Lastly, training for Criminal Investigation Command agents has been increased.
The team approach, Bromberg said, uses both existing and newly hired personnel -- along with others, like paralegal and victim liaisons from staff judge advocate offices -- to work together to move cases forward and ensure justice is served.
Bromberg reiterated what Army leaders have been telling lawmakers for months, namely that sequestration and the continuation of continuing resolutions are hurting morale and readiness.
As to readiness, Bromberg provided just a few of the many examples others have mentioned in testimony. A severe reduction in flight hours, for instance, is impacting the mission in Afghanistan. There, air asset usage is higher than ever and is especially critical as forces draw down.
Also, maintenance of vehicles and other equipment at depots and units has been deferred, leader development courses have been canceled, more than 3,000 temporary employees have been "released" and the reserve component medical readiness budget has been cut in half.
Additionally, reduced services on installations are lowering family and Soldier morale.
The effects of the cuts are causing "great angst in the force," he said.
Personnel chiefs from each of the other services provided similar testimony.
As the drawdown continues and Soldiers transition to civilian life, assistance while they are still in service is especially critical, Bromberg said.
A lot is being done to find ways to match Soldiers with employers, Bromberg said. For example, the Army has enlisted the help of a local pipefitters union to provide journeymen training for transitioning Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Lamont also said truck drivers in the Army are now able to get their commercial driver's licenses in Connecticut.
"They're already highly qualified," he said. "By credentialing them (without having to go through the process again), we're moving these highly qualified Soldiers more quickly to opportunities in the private sector."
Other help is being enlisted, Bromberg explained, including an increase of transition counselors to 25 forward locations to assist those in the reserve components, virtual job fairs for Soldiers in remote areas, and meetings between global company representatives and transitioning Soldiers.
Senators expressed dismay over the length of time it takes between when Soldiers are diagnosed with disabilities like post-traumatic stress disorder and when they begin receiving their disability checks.
The lawmakers did acknowledge that much of the delay -- up to 400 days for some -- was due to slow processing at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Faster processing times by the Army have caused an even greater backlog at the VA.
Lamont said the Army is making some strides in meeting the Defense Department goal of 295 days, but acknowledged that "it sometimes takes a while for complex cases."
He said the Army's new Integrated Disability Evaluation System is a big help in sharing data and tracking the flow of information from beginning to end.
Several other topics were briefly touched on, including the need to find and incentivize Soldiers for jobs in cyber-security and related intelligence fields. Bromberg said such skills are in high demand in the civilian sector and legislation is needed to better reward such talent.
Bromberg said he expects recommendations on incentives and recruitment of these specialties will be made to Congress jointly with the other services.
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