Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen received and approved the Department of Defense working group's action plan to eliminate all forms of harassment today. As recommended in the plan, the Department adopted an "overarching principle" that emphasizes that harassment for any reason undermines good order and discipline and has no place in the armed forces.
In addition, the Department intends to adopt the rest of the 13-point "action plan" that focuses needed attention on the problems of mistreatment generally and harassment of alleged or perceived homosexuals in particular. The plan ensures that commanders are ultimately responsible for training personnel on the Department's anti-harassment policies and holding accountable harassers and those who tolerate harassment. It also clearly states that information regarding sexual orientation is never necessary for a harassment complaint to be taken seriously. In that regard, it encourages the Services to teach all personnel, especially supervisors, that persons who receive such complaints must not ask about sexual orientation and persons who report harassment ought not disclose such information. Everyone must also be trained to understand the consequences of violating these principles.
A Department-wide directive will be issued outlining the key tenets of the overarching principle. It will emphasize that mistreatment, harassment and inappropriate comments or gestures, including those based on sexual orientation, are not acceptable.
Training and its effectiveness also featured prominently in the working group's deliberations and recommendations. One new initiative is the action plan's requirement that the Services must review their training programs annually to ensure they contain all information required by law and policy. It also requires them to tailor their programs to their audiences. To measure training effectiveness and compliance with DoD policy, the Services will be required to ensure feedback or reporting mechanisms are in place to measure knowledge, behavior, and climate.
Under Secretary of the Air Force Carol DiBattiste chaired the working group which was established by Cohen on March 24, 2000, to examine the findings of a Department of Defense Inspector General report on harassment of military personnel who are alleged or perceived to be homosexual. The group was comprised of senior civilian and military officials from each Service who met regularly for four months to consider such issues as eliminating mistreatment, harassment, and inappropriate comments or gestures; training; reporting of harassment; enforcement of policies prohibiting harassment; and measurement of anti-harassment program effectiveness.
In the course of its review, the working group requested and reviewed public comment, information on individual Service anti-harassment efforts, and briefings on the DoD survey from the DoD Inspector General and principles of behavior from the Behavioral Science Faculty at the U.S. Military Academy. At Secretary Cohen's request, it also considered the Army Inspector General report of investigation into PVT Winchell's death. The working group's recommendations address problems regarding harassment identified in the Army report.