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DoD to Form Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 1999 – The Defense Department has 90 days to form a 24-member task force on domestic violence, in accordance with the fiscal 2000 Defense Authorization Act signed Oct. 5 by President Clinton.

Over the next three years, the act requires the task force to determine ways to address domestic violence within the military more effectively. The 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.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen is to appoint the 12 military and 12 civilian members of the task force. Military appointees will include staff judge advocates from each service and senior executive level representatives selected by the services. Cohen will appoint a military co- chair and the civilian members will choose a co-chair from among their ranks.

Civilian appointees will include representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services' Family Violence Prevention and Services office, state and national sexual assault and domestic violence advocacy organizations, civilian law enforcement organizations, state and national judicial policy organizations, and a national crime victim policy organization.

Within 12 months after its inception, the task force will present a long-term strategic plan to the secretary. The plan will include recommendations to improve ongoing victim safety programs, offender accountability, coordination between military organizations as well as with civilian communities, training for military commanders, data collection, case management and tracking.

The task force will also recommend guidelines for negotiating agreements with civilian law enforcement authorities regarding domestic violence involving service members. They will initiate a requirement for copies of no- contact orders issued to service members by military commanders to be provided within 24 hours to the person whom the service member is not to contact. A system is to be developed for recording and tracking such orders.

The task force will recommend guidelines on factors for commanders to consider when seeking to substantiate allegations of domestic violence by a person subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and for determining appropriate disciplinary action when such allegations are substantiated. The task force will also recommend a standard training program on handling domestic violence cases for all commanding officers.

The act requires the task force to detail its activities, successes and failures in an annual report to the defense secretary. The report will also 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 detail achievements in response to domestic violence in the military, 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 report and his evaluation to the Senate Armed Services and House National Security committees.

Task force members will serve for three years and receive no compensation beyond their regular salaries. They will be authorized travel expenses and per diem if required to travel in connection with task force duties.

Related Site of Interest: FY2000 Defense Authorization Act

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