By U.S. ArmyMay 10, 2012
Good morning everybody, please sit down. It's great, great to be here. Commanders, I see all the commanders out here from all the different commands, command sergeants major, distinguished guests, I want to thank all of you for coming to what I believe is an incredibly important, important conference. It is encouraging to see that we have such a great turn out for this summit. You know, now this is the fifth year we've conducted this, I give great credit to all that have been involved in SHARP from its inception through today.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault are challenging and sensitive issues that require absolutely committed professionals to help combat them, which I know you all are and are willing to do. The planners for this summit have done a superb job bringing in the right people from Army leaders to government interagency officials, and I believe this sends a strong message to our united front. I want to thank everyone for their committed and diligent efforts to make this everyone's top priority. I'd like to recognize a few distinguished visitors. First Mrs. Mary Lauterbach, the mother of a sexual assault murder victim. Thank you, ma'am, for everything you do and continue to do in order to help us with this incredible fight we have, so thank you very much for being here and sharing your story with us.
As well as Ms. Veraunda Jackson, a sexual assault survivor. Thank you for participating today. As the Army Chief of Staff, I'm responsible for giving clear guidance to the force and ensuring that that guidance is followed. There are few issues as serious as sexual harassment and sexual assault that impact the health of the force as well as the integrity of our profession. So let me be clear: my guidance to the Army is that we will prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault from occurring. We must shape an Army culture based on values, standards, and discipline consistent with the profession of arms and ultimately win our campaign, while holding accountable those who commit sexual harassment or sexual assaults but also as important to those just allow it to occur.
I challenge Army leaders at every level that they must establish a command climate of trust and accountability. Reinforce that command climate with continuous education and training. Continue to conduct assessments using tools available such as command climate surveys and other appropriate tools to ensure that you're monitoring, that you are continuing to sustain the right environment within your command, within your section, within your directorate, wherever that might be. All three of these must be accomplished in order for our sexual harassment, sexual assault program to be successful.
There are few things that I believe are more inconsistent with our Army values than this. Our Army faces many threats and risks, but these specifics threats emanate from within our core. They have a corrosive effect on our unit readiness, team cohesion, command environment, and the trust of our soldiers and family members. We must preserve the faith we keep with our soldiers, civilians, and their families. We must protect the dignity and respect of the men and women entrusted to us by their families, by our government, and by the American people. And we must make every single effort to take care of and protect each other because that's what we do; that's who we are.
I believe our Profession of Arms is grounded upon this very bedrock of trust: trust between Soldiers; trust between Soldiers and leaders; trust between Soldiers, their Families, and the Army; and the trust between the Army and the American people. When we allow sexual harassment and sexual assault, we are breaking that trust. Simply put, these actions and crimes erode that trust and we simply cannot tolerate it as a Force. In an operational context, I often talk about the three roles of the Army: prevent conflict; shape the environment; and win dominantly and decisively. This same construct can be applied to our SHARP goals. The Army's goal is to prevent sexual harassment and assault before it occurs. Continuous education and training, in both the institutional and operational settings conducted in a command climate of trust and accountability are the most definitive approaches in order to achieve prevention.
To achieve this goal, the Army has incorporated SHARP education and training in all of our institutional learning environments. This will progress through the new leader, intermediate, advanced, senior, executive, senior leader level courses for all officers and non-commissioned officers. We want our Soldiers to know how serious our efforts are to fight these threats. So within 14 days of a Soldier coming onto active duty, during his or her initial entry training, they will get their first exposure to the Army's policies and regulations governing sexual harassment and sexual assault. And actually, we're achieving that within the first seven days. The center of training is key to avoid complacency and encourages reacting and reporting to become more instinctive and not unusual. We must put the same level of effort into ensuring the operational Army has the tools and resources they need. That includes ensuring there is wider public dissemination of available sexual assault resources, such as the DoD Safe Helpline. Training conducted in the institutional environment must be reinforced in the operational setting for it to be internalized and engrained.
When Soldiers arrive at a new unit, it's important there is an environment that discourages and frankly, does not tolerate, sexual harassment and sexual assault. So it is key that this training must be followed up in the operational setting. If not, all that we taught them initially is thrown away because they'll say, "The Army is not serious about this because when I went through my first unit nobody cared about sexual assault/sexual harassment." I know that's not true. That's why we need a comprehensive program from the time you enter the Army to every assignment you go to that reinforces the idea that we are professionals, that we are there for each other, that we will not tolerate someone conducting an action against another of our Soldiers who stands to our right, who stands to our left, who's in front of or behind us, whether it be in war or peace.
If we allow somebody to conduct these attacks, we are not true to ourselves. And I challenge all commanders to ensure they establish an open and transparent command climate, which is simply essential to our success. Commanders must not only establish but regularly assess the unit's command climate through a variety of techniques, specifically command climate surveys. And I'm going to ask that every commander conduct a command climate survey within their first three months, again six months following, and then every year so they get an assessment of the climate that they have within their command. Commanders have the challenge of protecting the health and safety of the victim while protecting the rights of the suspect. All commanders are responsible for the discipline and morale of their units. This includes establishing that culture of trust, as well as teaching and training their subordinate leaders what is expected of them while imbuing those kinds of values and understandings in their subordinates. This is why SHARP education and training occurs in all pre-command courses.
Next we must shape an Army culture based on values, standards and discipline, consistent with the profession of arms, within all units, within all ranks, and with all environs. When a Soldier joins the Army, he or she becomes a part of something greater than just themselves. With this entry into the profession of arms comes higher standards of moral and ethical behavior. We are different than any other profession. We are given great responsibility, and with that comes even greater accountability. As a professional organization, we must reinforce the ethics centered around trust and respect. This includes trust between male and female Soldiers. Although females compose only 14 percent of the force, they compose 95 percent of the victims of violent sex crimes.
We must do a better job of protecting all our Soldiers. The delicate balance is fostering a climate where no one feels threatened while guarding against false reporting. This goes back to being part of a values-based organization. The current rate of sexual assault is 2.5 cases per thousand Soldiers, which to put it in perspective is roughly one squad out of a brigade combat team. And those are just the victims who choose to report, and we know there are still many who do not feel comfortable to report sexual assault, sexual harassment, for a number of reasons. Some because they're embarrassed, some because they believe there will be retribution by the chain of command. They believe that the 'boys' club' will take over and not protect them if they come forward. That is not tolerable to me; it should not be tolerable to any of you out there today.
We need to eliminate the prevalent bystander mentality. It's intolerable to me that there are people who see sexual harassment or circumstances that could lead to sexual assault and choose to turn the other way. The mentality of passive bystanders who do not assist, do not report, and do not try to help their fellow Soldiers as they see sexual harassment occur are part of the problem. The issue is a cultural problem that must be shaped in order to create a zero tolerance climate.
And finally, we are working to win our campaign by holding people accountable. Our investigative prosecution and defense professionals have specialized training in sexual assault offenses and the unique challenges they pose. Those who commit crimes of sexual assault must be and can expect to be held accountable. We do not need commanders who don't foster appropriate command climate. We do not need Soldiers who are bystanders doing nothing to protect their brothers and sisters in arms.
This serious issue is a top priority for our Army. Over the last five years, we have increased the budget allocated for the entire sexual harassment/assault response program by 500 percent. For continued education and prevention training, we are making sure the message is disseminated about how important fighting sexual harassment and assault is to the welfare of the Army and the welfare of our profession. We want crime victims to report. We want them to be assured that the Army will do the right thing by them, and that they won't be victimized again. A single instance of sexual harassment or sexual assault hurts one but affects all.
Dedicated efforts to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment must be inculcated in everything that we do. It is what I expect and is what our Nation demands. These abuses do not represent our Army. This is not who we are. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and lead the Nation in solving this problem. We have to do better. Our country trusts us to support and protect their sons and daughters. Every Army leader, Soldier, and Civilian has ownership of this problem that we face. Together we must fight as one team to prevent, shape, and win this war against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Everyone in this room, we have stood together and solved and overcome difficult challenges before. We have solved tough and complex problems in very complex environments, and I'm completely confident that we will do so again. But it requires our total focus and our dedication. I challenge you to lead us forward. I challenge you that I will walk with you as we lead forward to solve this problem. The strength of our Nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our Soldiers. The strength of our Soldiers is our Families, and that is what makes us Army Strong. Thank you so much for allowing me to talk to you today.
I'd like to take about 10 minutes to see if anybody has any questions for me at all. Anybody? You're letting me off the hook? Okay. Well thanks again, I appreciate it very much, and I appreciate everyone's attendance here, and I just ask you to continue to work this problem hard. Take it back to your commands. Pass the message. I'm happy to see so many commanders and command sergeant majors here because it is important that they're the ones who set the tone down to squad level in every unit that we have in the Army. So thank you very much, and again, God bless all of you. Thank you. [end of transcript]