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Domestic Violence Task Force Begins Work

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2000, April 28, 2000 – Robert L. Stein II knows the kind of effort that's going to be required to study, and ultimately, combat domestic violence in the military.

A veteran of the military's campaigns against drugs, alcohol and child abuse, Stein says he's looking forward to this new challenge.

Stein is the executive director of DoD's newly formed Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence. Under the direction of the assistant defense secretary for Force Management and Personnel, Stein, a member of the senior executive service, and a staff of 12 military and DoD civilians will help chart a course for the 24-member, Congressionally-mandated panel.

"DoD has made a substantial commitment to address domestic violence over the past few years," Stein said. "However, like civilian communities, DoD can continue to improve its response to domestic violence. Our goal is to help this task force provide the secretary of defense and Congress with recommendations that will be useful to make the military's family advocacy program better than it is today."

In March, in accordance with the fiscal 2000 Defense Authorization Act, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen appointed 12 military and 12 civilians to make up the Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence.

Military appointees include staff judge advocates from each service and executive level officers selected by the services. Cohen appointed Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Jack W. Klimp as co-chair. Klimp currently serves as the Marine Corps deputy chief of staff for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

Civilian appointees include people from the Health and Human Services' Family Violence Prevention and Services office, state and national sexual assault and domestic violence advocacy groups, law enforcement and state and national judicial policy organization officials. Civilian members chose Deborah Tucker as co-chair. Tucker is the executive director of the National Training Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence in Austin, Texas.

Half the panel members are experts in family violence and the remaining members are senior military leaders, Stein said. "The civilians come from shelters and other programs that work on a day-to-day basis with violence against women," he said. "They're experts in the field."

Military members include commanding generals from Fort Carson, Colo., and the Marine Corps base at Quantico, and the sergeant major of the Marine Corps. The military members may lack the subject matter expertise, Stein noted, "but they're leaders and they know how to get the job done in the military."

"There are going to be some pot holes in the road as we move down the trail," Stein said, "but I can't question the dedication of any of the people involved. I couldn't be more pleased. If I could have interviewed these folks for two days before they were selected for the task force, I couldn't have selected any better."

Over the next three years, the panel will work to determine ways DoD can address domestic violence more effectively. Overall, Stein said, the task force will give the secretary a fresh look at DoD's family advocacy.

"We'll be looking at the entire program," he said. We'll be trying to take a snapshot of what exists. We'll look at what resources are put against family advocacy. Are there ways in which the resources can be realigned? Are we making the best use of the resources? Maybe we can do a lot of things better just by making some program shifts."

The task force held its first meeting April 25 and 26 in Fredericksburg, Va. After reviewing the authorization act's requirements and setting up a framework, Stein said, the task force formed work groups on victim safety, offender accountability, education and training, community collaboration and special interest items.

"One of the training and education work group's first priorities is going to be looking at command education on domestic violence," Stein said. "We'll be looking at command climate.

"We're going to look at what kinds of information we give first sergeants and sergeant majors. We're going to look at the whole educational process throughout military training from the time someone comes in until the time they leave."

Gathering information is the task forces' first step, Stein said. Later, members will visit military installations to meet with family advocacy officials. They'll also meet with the other professional disciplines that deal with family advocacy issues -- chaplains, law enforcement, medical personnel and others.

They will also visit shelters and other facilities in local civilian communities, which may support service members and their families. The panel's overall goal is to link the military and civilian communities to improve, strengthen or coordinate prevention and response efforts to domestic violence involving service members.

Hopefully, Stein said, the task force will provide a model that can be transferred to the civilian community, Stein added, "or if not, at least it will provide a lot of overlap in those military and civilian communities where we're co-located."

Task force members will serve for three years and receive no compensation beyond their regular salary, only travel expenses and per diem when required to travel in connection with task force duties.

The panel will present a strategic plan to the defense secretary by February 2001, Stein said. The plan will include recommendations to improve on-going victim safety programs, offender accountability, coordination between military organizations and civilian communities, training for military commanders, data collection, case management and tracking.

The act requires the task force to submit an annual report to the defense secretary detailing its activities, achievements and successful and unsuccessful programs. The report will include the panel's analysis and oversight of the services' response to domestic violence and any barriers to implementing and improving those efforts. It will describe pending, completed and recommended DoD domestic violence research.

Each subsequent report will also include a detailed discussion of recent achievements, pending research on the subject and recommendations to improve the Armed Forces responses to the problem. The defense secretary will then have 90 days to submit the annual report and his evaluation to the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Armed Services.

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