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Survey Details Harassment, Cohen Calls for Action Plan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2000 – DoD Inspector General data show the military environment with respect to the homosexual conduct policy is not good.

In response to the survey, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen has appointed a working group of senior defense leaders to come up with an action plan to combat harassment. The board, led by Undersecretary of the Air Force Carol DiBattiste, must report by July 31.

"The Inspector General's report convinces me that additional actions are necessary to address the problem of harassment of service members who are alleged or perceived to be homosexual," Cohen said in a written release.

The report found more than 80 percent of service members surveyed by the DoD Inspector General said they had heard offensive speech, derogatory names, jokes or remarks regarding homosexuals in the last year. A total of 85 percent of service members believed other service members and leaders tolerated such comments.

Some 37 percent of the 71,000 service members surveyed said they had witnessed or experienced an event of harassment toward a service member because of the service member's perceived sexual orientation.

And 5 percent of those surveyed believed the chain of command tolerated such harassment.

The DoD team went to 39 installations and 11 ships and submarines to collect the data. All individuals in randomly chosen units were surveyed. "One unit was a headquarters element," said Frank Rush, deputy undersecretary of defense for planning. "The four-star general came out with everyone else to fill out the survey." The survey was not voluntary.

Rush said there was a direct correlation between the age, experience and number of women in a force, and problems with offensive speech. "The Marine Corps has a bigger problem with offensive speech than the Air Force," he said.

Of the 37 percent of service members who said they witnessed or experienced harassment based on sexual orientation, "most were in the offensive speech category," Rush said. This was just over 88 percent of the 23,603 service members who responded to this question.

Other harassment figures broke down like this: offensive or hostile gestures, 34.7 percent; threats or intimidation, 19.8 percent; graffiti, 15.2 percent; vandalism of a service member's property, 7.6 percent; physical assault, 9 percent; limiting or denying training or career opportunities, 8.9 percent; and disciplinary actions or punishments, 9.5 percent.

The survey reported that co-workers do most of the harassing (61 percent). However, immediate supervisors also were cited (11.1 percent).

Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Cohen is disturbed by the survey's results. This is why he is appointing the working group. Bacon said the group would examine the results of this survey and earlier efforts to broaden training and ensure no service member is harassed for any reason.

"This is a difficult societal issue as well as a difficult issue for the military," Bacon said. "The lesson of this report is that we must do a better job than we have in the past."

Bacon said the homosexual conduct policy is mandated by Congress. He said DoD would make the policy work.

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Related Sites:
DoD News Release: Secretary Cohen Calls for Action Plan to Reduce Harassment
Report D-2000-101, Military Environment With Respect to the Homosexual Conduct Policy (pdf)
DoD News Briefing, March 24, 2000

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