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Army Announces Plan to Combat Harassment

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 1997 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen called the Army's response to sexual harassment "comprehensive and direct" in a statement issued Sept. 11 coincident with the release of two major Army studies.

"The Army's actions make it clear that there is no room for sexual abuse, harassment or discrimination in today's military," Cohen said.

An active, committed leadership is key to preventing sexual harassment, Army Secretary Togo D. West said during a Pentagon news conference to discuss findings of his senior review panel and the Army inspector general. He had appointed the panel to study sexual harassment in the service soon after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer, also at the conference, said the service must emphasize values and inculcate in all soldiers respect for their fellow soldiers regardless of gender, race, creed or national origin.

The panel and inspector general found sexual harassment exists throughout the service and crosses gender, rank, racial and age lines. They found gender discrimination is far more pervasive than sexual harassment. Their studies also found most soldiers distrust the equal opportunity complaint system.

Most important, the studies found too many Army leaders have failed to gain the trust of their soldiers. "Plain and simple, this is a leadership issue, and it will be addressed as such," Reimer said. "Our leaders understand that our soldiers are our most precious assets, and each soldier in the Army must be treated with dignity and respect."

West and Reimer also announced the Army Human Relations Action Plan. Part of the plan is to extend Army basic training one week to accommodate more training on values. Basic training is now eight weeks long.

"All soldiers will benefit from basic training that is longer, tougher and built on basic values as well as from other actions the Army is taking," Cohen said.

The action plan toughens the drill sergeant selection process and adds 10.5 hours of human relations training to the drill sergeant syllabus.

Cohen said the U.S. Army is still the best in the world. "Our soldiers prove that every day in Bosnia, Korea, the Arabian Gulf and wherever they deploy," he said. Following disclosures of abuses at Aberdeen, the Army launched a thorough investigation of its policies for dealing with sexual harassment.

The Army disciplined commanders at Aberdeen who had oversight responsibility but failed to exercise it. Letters of reprimand went to five officers, including a general officer, Army officials said. Three sergeants major will receive less severe written admonishments.

"Secretary West has also addressed the issue of accountability, which is an important component of leadership," Cohen said.

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