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Dignity, Respect at Heart of Anti-harassment Plan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2000 – DoD has adopted an “overarching principle” regarding all forms of harassment - - including harassment based on sexual orientation, DoD officials announced July 21.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen approved the Anti-harassment Action Plan and has forwarded it to the services for implementation, said Bernard Rostker, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

The plan is the result of a look at the military's “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy following the 1999 murder of an allegedly gay Army private at Fort Campbell, Ky.

DoD’s overarching anti-harassment principle is that “treatment of all individuals with dignity and respect is essential to good order and discipline. Mistreatment, harassment and inappropriate comments or gestures undermine this principle and have no place in our armed forces. Commanders and leaders must develop and maintain a climate that fosters unit cohesion, esprit de corps and mutual respect for all members of the command or organization.”

Rostker said the statement should make it clear to service members that military officials will not tolerate any kind of harassment. Further, the plan makes it clear that DoD will hold commanders and leaders accountable for any failures to enforce this plan.

The action plan reiterates the DoD’s commitment to harassment-free environment, Rostker said. “To do that, we have formally extended the definition of harassment to include inappropriate comments and inappropriate gestures” he said. Previously, only the Navy's definition of harassment included inappropriate comments and gestures.

“We have to be sensitive to name-calling sometimes things are said as banter that can be hurtful and constitutes harassment,” Rostker said.

Service members have “an absolute right to a harassment- free environment," he said. "In seeking that right, they should never be asked about their sexual orientation.” In seeking an end to harassment, “they have an absolute right to define any such question about their sexual orientation as inappropriate and decline to answer it.”

Rostker said the chain of command must deal with charges of harassment. “We will hold them to that,” he said. “The fact that a person is being harassed is enough to cause actions to cease that harassment.”

Air Force Undersecretary Carol DiBattiste, chair of the commission that came up with the Anti-harassment Action Plan, said other aspects of the plan will help commanders and leaders, at all levels, to prevent and eliminate future harassment.

The plan calls for the services to conduct homosexual policy training and measure the effectiveness of that training. DiBattiste said the military should assess the effectiveness of training yearly and measure service members’ knowledge of the policy, their behavior and the command climate.

Under the plan, the services will review all “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy training and anti-harassment training programs to ensure they jibe with DoD’s overarching principle and implementing directive.

DiBattiste said the plan calls for all service members to be informed of all confidential and non-confidential avenues to report harassment. The only confidential avenues service members have are through attorney-client privilege or through the clergy, she said. In most cases, the chain of command is the preferred avenue.

The plan calls for the services to ensure that commanders and supervisors take appropriate action against anyone that condones or ignores harassment.

In addition to DiBattiste, the DoD working group that developed the action plan were: Stephen Preston, Navy general counsel; Patrick Henry, assistant Army secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs; Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Barrett, commander Fort Jackson, S.C.; Air Force Maj. Gen. John Brooks, special assistant to the chief of staff; Rear Adm. William Putnam, with the office of the chief of Naval Personnel and Marine Maj. Gen. Dennis McCarthy, director, Reserve Affairs Division.

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Related Sites:
DoD News Briefing, Bernard D. Rostker, USD (Personnel & Readiness), Chief of Staff of the Army General Eric Shinseki and Under Secretary of the Air Force Carol DiBattiste, July 21, 2000

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