WASHINGTON - As part of the planned redesign of its Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, the Army will launch a one-year pilot establishing a fusion directorate designed to care for, protect and empower victims. The fusion directorate will offer an additional reporting mechanism and coordinated medical, investigative, legal and support services that are independent of a victim’s immediate command.
“Soldiers and DA Civilians must feel comfortable raising allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault, quickly receive the care and services they need, and be treated with dignity and respect throughout the process,” said Lt. Gen. Gary M. Brito, the deputy chief of staff of G-1 and a tri-chair of the People First Task Force, which is leading efforts to redesign the SHARP program. “The fusion directorate is designed to ensure that sexual assault victims experience a supportive and compassionate response from a team of professionals working under the direct oversight of a senior commander.”
This victim-centered model aims to increase accountability, transparency, and efficiency. This will be done by coordinating care providers, investigators and criminal prosecutors from a single directorate, allowing them to maximize their efforts and keep victims better informed at each step of an emotional and complex process. The fusion directorate and its assigned staff will operate outside of a victim’s immediate chain of command, offering an additional mechanism for reporting sexual assault or sexual harassment incidents.
The fusion directorate concept is designed so that it can be adjusted to comply with any future changes in federal law or Department of Defense policy. The Army will also study ways to professionalize and incentivize career tracks for sexual assault coordinators and victim advocates, a key recommendation of both the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (FHIRC) and the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military.
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Irwin, California; Fort Riley, Kansas; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma will host pilot sites, which are expected to open in early 2022. In addition, the Army Reserve will pilot a virtual fusion directorate for the 99th Readiness Division. At each of the seven pilot sites, the director of the fusion directorate will report to the senior installation commander, increasing the level of oversight.
The Army National Guard is not currently participating in this pilot due to the complex, joint nature of this organization. The National Guard serves a unique dual mission across 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia, each with their own laws. There are multiple types of duty status for Guard Soldiers, who can be deployed by their state governor or the federal government. However, all components, including the National Guard, are actively involved in the planning effort to ensure that the fusion directorate model will work Army-wide. The National Guard will develop a product that meets the intent of the fusion directorate, which will include both Air National Guard and Army National Guard.
The Army’s People First Task Force is working with Army organizations, including the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, to develop pilot metrics, which should be finalized by October 2021. Senior leaders will use the results of this pilot program in order to make informed decisions on if and how the program should be expanded Army-wide.
Acting upon FHIRC recommendations, the People First Task Force is developing options for redesigning the SHARP program to both improve survivor support and focus on prevention. The fusion directorate pilot is one part of that effort.
The Army continues to make policy changes to help ensure that a Soldier’s report of sexual assault or sexual harassment is always met with a timely and effective response. In May, the Army issued a directive implementing several SHARP-related findings and recommendations from the FHIRC report.
The directive included provisions improving the issuance of military protective orders and the process by which sexual assault victims receive case notifications. In addition, for sexual harassment complaints, commanders must appoint investigating officers from outside the brigade-sized element to which the subject of the investigation is assigned.
The Army is taking action to implement each of the 70 recommendations set forth in the FHIRC report. Although the FHIRC report focused on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood, its findings are relevant to the entire Army and its more than 1 million Soldiers.
Additional resources, including the full, redacted FHIRC report, are available at: https://www.army.mil/forthoodreview.