DoD News Briefing - Bernard D. Rostker, USD (Personnel & Readiness)
Friday, July 21, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. EDT
(Also participating in this briefing was Chief of Staff of the Army General Eric Shinseki and Under Secretary of the Air Force Carol DiBattiste)
Rostker: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Bernie Rostker. I'm the under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. And today we will be releasing two studies on the issue of homosexual policy in the Department of Defense, the first being the Army's IG report on the climate at Fort Campbell, and the chief of staff will be making that presentation. He will be staying for some questions, and then we'll transition for the second report, which is the working group that responded to the DoD IG's report on harassment. That working group was chaired by Under Secretary of the Air Force Carol DiBattiste.
The IG's -- the Army IG report was made available to the Army leadership earlier in the month, and I asked Under Secretary DiBattiste if she could move up the activities of her group so that she might be able to consider that, the Army's findings, and then without delay in the Army report, bringing it forward to the public. And she was able to accomplish that.
I would remind you all that this is a continuing effort to refine the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. And last August, [Under] Secretary De Leon published two memorandums to improve the application of our homosexual policy. In December, Secretary Cohen asked the IG to look into the issue of command climate. That was followed -- that report was followed by a commission to Under Secretary DiBattiste and her group to present an action plan. The secretary has accepted that action plan and I signed out its implementation this morning.
So without any further delay, let me introduce the chief of staff of the United States Army to talk about the Army's IG report, General Shinseki.
Shinseki: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me make an opening statement. I'll take some questions, and for any of the detailed questions following, General Mike Ackerman, our inspector general, is here with members of his team to take any follow-on questions that may exist. Let me, in my opening statement, frame the context within which the inspector general went to Fort Campbell to conduct his investigation.
You know, the death of a soldier, any soldier, whether in combat or in peacetime, is a great loss to the Army, a loss that's most keenly felt in that soldier's unit.
Now on 5 July 1999, the Army and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky, suffered such a loss, the loss of the soldier as the result of a senseless and a brutal crime. Two soldiers have been since tried and convicted for this needless tragedy, and both of them are today serving lengthy prison sentences. And our sympathy, as you will understand and hear, continues to go out to Private First Class Barry Winchell's family and friends.
Everything we are called upon to do in the Army requires teamwork. Teamwork is built on a foundation of trust and confidence within units -- trust and confidence within units, between soldier and soldier, between leader and led, and between units serving side by side.
That trust and confidence emerges from our day-to-day commitment to our Army values. We teach them in the force -- loyalty and duty and respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage.
Now without trust, there can be no dignity and respect for the individual soldier, and cohesion and morale in our units would suffer, visibly suffer.
In the Army, we know that on our most difficult days our lives may depend on the ability and the willingness of the person next to us to perform his or her duty. In combat, soldiers fight for each other, they die for each other, and they carry their fallen comrades out on their backs.
The essential questions that are asked in evaluating our peers, our subordinates, and our superiors are simple and pretty fundamental: Would I be willing to go to war with you? Would I be willing to put my life on the line for you? Would I be willing to die for you?
And when the answers are yes, that is a powerful statement of commitment. There is no higher compliment that one soldiers can pay to another. The answers to those questions rest upon the quality of trust in a unit. Trust is the confidence that soldiers have in the willingness of their fellow soldiers to faithfully do their duty when the time comes. It is about standing and delivering on one's duty to one's fellow soldiers. Teamwork and confidence-building are everyday devotions in the Army.
We have learned through some trying times that those questions are matters of fundamental importance in building trust soldier-to-soldier, and out of those individual relationships of trust grow the bonds that build unit cohesion.
When individual dignity and respect are violated, mutual trust and cohesion erodes. Harassment of any kind violates individual dignity and tears at the fabric of this trust and the cohesion of our Army. It will not be tolerated for any reason.
As a combat veteran, Major General Bob Clark understands the importance of that trust and what it means to unit cohesion and combat readiness. And for that reason, he decided it was important enough to ask the Army this past January to investigate his unit. And in response, the Army sent its inspector general to assess the overall command climate at Fort Campbell, as well as the implementation of the Department of Defense homosexual conduct policy.
During the course of that five-month investigation, the inspector general surveyed or interviewed over 2,000 people from Fort Campbell. Overall, the investigation concluded that the chain of command responded appropriately to matters with respect to enforcement of the policy and that the command climate at Fort Campbell before 5 July 1999 was a "positive environment."
In comparing the command climate that exists now to the command climate the year before, personnel who were asked indicated that the command climate was favorable. And moreover, those surveyed felt that the leadership at Fort Campbell was effective, concerned, and treated personnel fairly. They also believe that the leadership led by example. Although there are isolated instances of reported harassment, the inspector general found that the chain of command responded appropriately to issues presented to them.
While the investigation found the overall command climate at Fort Campbell to be positive and healthy, it also determined, after interviewing 50 percent of unit personnel, that the command climate within the company to which Barry Winchell was assigned was poor. The investigation attributed this finding to personnel shortages, underage drinking in the barracks, and the presence of an abusive noncommissioned officer in a leadership position in that unit. The IG has carefully examined the actions of that company commander and found that he acted responsibly as the commander and, where appropriate, held individuals accountable.
The leadership at Fort Campbell has taken appropriate action, to include removing that noncommissioned officer from the unit. The investigation discovered that since the chain of command took this corrective action, morale in the company has improved -- these corrective actions, morale in the company has improved dramatically.
The 101st Airborne Division remains an outstanding and combat-ready unit. The Screaming Eagles have a legacy of war-fighting readiness that continues to be widely respected. And I have complete confidence that they stand ready to answer the nation's calls whenever and wherever we may send them.
Now, I've provided you copies of my statement and also copies of my directive to implement the study's recommendations. And I will take your questions at this time.
Q: General, these 13 points in the new plan -- I would ask you this, and I would ask Secretary Rostker, too -- the 13 points emphasize, stress that commanders and leaders will be held responsible for any harassment under their command. Is ignorance any excuse for that? The captain in that company and, in fact, the general commanding the 101st were ignorant of what was going on in that company. You did find that it was a problem in the company itself. Will ignorance be any excuse for harassment going on in a command?
Shinseki: Well, let me just tell you first, to understand the comprehensive nature of the inspector general's investigation: five-month look; 2,000 people talked to; and everyone in the chain of command, from that division commander to his assistant division commanders, 47 battalion and brigade commanders, 68 or so sensing sessions, and a sensing session was somewhere's nine to 10 people. So that tells you you've got a pretty good cut of various populations. And with nine to 10 people in a sensing session, you also had the ability to read people up close -- body language, reluctance to speak -- and the invitation to get people to share information. All of that done. Interviews conducted with civilian people from the community there that went beyond just the unit. People who would not be reluctant to speak.
Twenty-seven members of the investigating team went and spent time at Fort Campbell, merged into formations early in the morning -- they were doing physical training. Went and ran with those units -- where their presence would not be noticed -- over and over again just to get the flavor for command climate. Public places, whether they were community centers, recreation centers, barracks, training areas, hangars -- looking for evidence of derogatory or demeaning graffiti.
All of that said and done, the inspector general's team focused then on that company in particular and took a very good look at that company commander. Fifty percent of that company interviewed. And the report back to the IG was that members of that unit are comfortable that that commander was competent, caring and executed his responsibilities properly.
One clear indication also, though, was that we had one senior non-commissioned officer, in a company that was short of its full officer complement, in a key leadership position, that was abusive not just to soldiers, but also to some of his subordinate, non- commissioned officers.
The company commander, understanding that this was an issue, took the non-commissioned officer aside, counseled him, told him what was wrong with this leadership style, gave him an opportunity to make corrective action. When that correction was not forthcoming, he was removed from that position. And my understanding is, since that change in leadership was taken, morale in that company has soared.
So the use of the word "ignorance" on the part of the company commander, I think probably a bit shortsighted. I think he was aware of this and took action to address that leadership end.
Q: Well, if he wasn't ignorant, General, the problem escalated into murder, why wasn't he held responsible in some way for this? I mean, if you're going to -- if you say that this program is going to have to be true from top to bottom, on top command is going to have to answer here. Are you really going to get that straightened out until top commanders are punished if something goes on in the --
Shinseki: Well, I think the commanders did take action. This crime that occurred was a crime of violence, one soldier on another. The circumstances were there was excessive drinking. Two soldiers that were involved in that, both court-martialed -- as I indicated in my statement, have been put in jail for an extended period of time.
We went to look at the command climate at the invitation of General Clark. And the response, the feedback, that we have gotten -- this report -- this comprehensive look says that we have a strong command climate there at Fort Campbell. In this one unit that had a problem of low morale, corrective action was taken, and the morale in that unit has improved.
Q: General, I am wondering where you think the Army would be on this whole issue if the policy moved to allowing gays to serving openly in the Army? Would it be better or worse?
Shinseki: Well, I don't know. That may be a good question for some future speculation.
But the fact is the policy is law -- it's the law of the land -- and we think it's an appropriate one that we can implement and enforce. And our responsibility now is to make sure that implementation, and the training that goes along with it, is fully taken care of.
Q: Two questions.
Beyond the harassment, this report indicates that there were a series of other problems. Sixty-four percent of the junior enlisted soldiers said that there was a serious problem of lack of respect. And there are numerous complaints in here about housing, medical, low morale, continuing underage drinking. How concerned are you about these other ongoing problems at Fort Campbell, and what are you going to do about it?
Shinseki: Well, these are not just -- those kinds of problems that you cite are not just present at Fort Campbell. I mean, these are some issues -- whether it's underage drinking or excessive drinking in barracks, Tricare problems -- now, these are leadership issues. And in the case of underage and excessive drinking, these are prohibited. And I expect that leadership, when they encounter this, will take the corrective action to put controls in place. And the IG's report tells us that, when these conditions came to the leadership's attention, that in fact they did do that.
Q: And may I just follow up very quickly? If you tell us, as chief of Staff here, that there was an "abusive," to use your word, NCO, are there no charges that man should be brought up on? How can you have someone abusive in the military -- in the Army continue on in a job? Why is he not being brought up on charges?
Shinseki: Well, the report -- following today's release -- is being provided back to the commander at Fort Campbell and to other commanders, where evidence of some follow-up reviews are required -- provided to them for their look.
Q: So what is being followed up on here beyond this report?
Shinseki: Well, I'm putting out a series of directives that will change -- go back and look at our training programs. For example, the commander at TRADOC will have a requirement to look at our training packages, to make sure that the quality of training out there that clarifies the policy is appropriate.
Q: I guess what I'm trying to ask you -- is this abusive NCO liable for any charges, or is he completely off the hook?
Shinseki: I will have to see what the commander at Fort Campbell does with it.
Q: Sir, about once a year, the Pentagon holds a press conference in which it says it's getting serious about "don't ask, don't tell" and is really going to implement it this time.
But there's a striking contrast here. When Aberdeen happened, heads rolled. The Army blamed personnel shortages, as it is now. But also heads did roll. Why should anyone think the Army is serious about implementing "don't ask, don't tell" at this year's press conference, when heads aren't rolling and we're getting a lot of "yeah, we're going to do more training, and we'll take care of personnel problems"?
Shinseki: Well, I think you need to look at the details of the report. I think what the report will show you is that wherever evidence -- incidents of harassment were discovered or brought to the attention of chain of command, the chain of command did act.
Now in the case of -- I think you're referring to the murder of Private Winchell. The two soldiers who were involved in that were held accountable. They were taken to trial, and they were found guilty.
Q: The Service Members Legal Defense Network says that a number of gay and lesbian military personnel at Fort Campbell felt that if they spoke out, they might be identified as being homosexual and dismissed from their ranks. First of all, did that climate exist, or did that threat exist there? And if so, how confident can you be that you have an accurate assessment of what the climate is at Fort Campbell?
Shinseki: You mean speaking out with regard to the investigation? Well, I'll tell you, I would have no way of answering that, because, as you know, by the policy, there's no way for us to go on and decide who might be, you know, inclined homosexually or not.
But the members who were part of the team randomly selected from across the population there, the 2,000 soldiers who were included -- so hopefully there was a cross-section that represented the population there at Fort Campbell.
Q: The mother of Private Winchell has charged the Army with a cover-up and has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the military. Would you, as a result of what you're saying, disagree with her characterization of your report as a cover-up? And is there any merit to her case?
Shinseki: Well, I will tell you, if this were a cover-up, I wouldn't be standing here today.
I do know about that lawsuit, and as I said, with respect to Mrs. Kutteles's statement, I will tell you that the Army sympathizes with her.
We take full responsibility for what happened to Private Winchell. But frankly, the cover-up of this is incorrect.
And I will tell you that whatever else Private Winchell may have been, he was one of us. He was a soldier in uniform, and a good soldier. My understanding is in the month of July a year ago, he was being considered for Soldier of the Month and was being prepared by his noncommissioned officer leadership to stand that selection process. And when it was time to take him home, those two noncommissioned officers were also those who escorted him home to Kansas. And there was a soldier formation serving at his funeral.
Q: If I could ask a follow-up based on my colleague's question, it's been a year since his death, and the Army still hasn't decided whether the NCO who was so abusive should be charged with any criminal charges?
Shinseki: Well, that noncommissioned officer was removed from his position for abusive behavior of a general nature, not in specific to the murder of Private Winchell.
Q: You have to excuse my ignorance; is he in the military still, or has he been --
Shinseki: He is. He has been --
Q: -- dishonorably discharged?
Shinseki: -- reassigned to other duties. He's been taken out of a leadership position.
Q: But he's still in the military, serving in good stead, and he has not been charged with anything --
Shinseki: He is in the military.
Maj. Gen. Meyer, chief of Army public affairs: We've got time for one more question, then General Ackerman will pick it up at the end.
Q: How is what you are doing now any different than what you've done in the past, then? Is the Army getting serious about enforcing "don't ask, don't tell" in a way that is different than we've seen in the last seven years?
Shinseki: Rick, I think what I would tell you is, a year ago when -- 5 July '99 -- Fort Campbell at that time was implementing the Army's homosexual conduct policy as it stood then. We have gone back and taken a look, and we find that there's a requirement for continuing training. So what you will see is an increase in both the frequency of training for soldiers and leaders. You'll find that the inspector general will on a recurring basis go to the field as part of their normal inspection process to check in to see the quality of the training, whether or not the policy is better understood, and the degree to which the chain of command is, in fact, implementing that policy fully. So there will be some changes.
Q: General Shinseki, I'm very sorry; could I just ask you to reclarify one thing because I'm afraid I just am not sure I understand.
Is the Army in any way, shape or form still considering any charges against the NCO?
Shinseki: I would have to leave that to the commanding general and the 1st Division, with this report going back to him.
Q: So it is still an open question as to whether than man faces charges?
Shinseki: I can't answer that. I would have to defer to the commanding general and the 1st Division.
Q: Could we get an answer to that by the end of the day?
Q: (Inaudible) -- take that question, sir, and give us an answer?
Meyer: We'll take the question and get back to you. General Ackerman is going to be here after the next briefing. Thank you all very much.
Shinseki: Thank you.
DiBattiste: Good afternoon. I'm Carol DiBattiste, under secretary of the Air Force, and I'd like to start by introducing the members of the working group that served with me in reporting to Secretary Cohen our action plan, our anti-harassment action plan. Other members that served with me on the working group are the Honorable Stephen Preston, general counsel of the Navy; Mr. Patrick T. Henry, assistant secretary of Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs; Major General Raymond D. Barrett, commanding general, U.S. Army Training Center, Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Major General John W. Brooks, who is special assistant to the Air Force chief of staff here in Washington, D.C.; Rear Admiral William L. Putnam, United States Navy, director, Military Personnel Plans and Policy Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Personnel; and Brigadier General Stephen Johnson, director of Manpower, Plans and Policy Division, Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, who is representing Major General Dennis McCarthy, who was a member of our working group from -- he's the director of the Reserve Affairs Division, Headquarters, Marine Corps, who is presently out of the country. The other members of the working group are here with me today.
Our original charter that we received from Secretary Cohen was to develop a draft action plan focusing on measures necessary to address the problem of harassment based on perceived sexual orientation and other issues raised by the results of the DoD IG survey. The scope of our working group and our charter was expanded later to include a review of the Army IG report into the 1999 murder of Private First Class Barry Winchell, a soldier at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. And we did consider the Army IG report much later in our working group deliberations, but we did consider that and that is incorporated into our action plan. Our charter did not include an examination of the law or DoD policy regarding homosexual conduct or whether that policy should be modified or repealed.
We met regularly for four months -- over the last four months -- several times and received briefings from both the DoD IG and the Army IG on their reports.
We also received briefings from the services on their anti-harassment methods that are currently in place, and from the behavioral science faculty at the United States Military Academy.
We first identified problems and issues contained in both the DoD and Army IG reports. We studied existing methods that the services have for dealing with harassment. And then we proposed additional actions, which are summarized -- and I'm going to go over today -- on this action plan, to help commanders and leaders at all levels to prevent and eliminate future harassment. Additionally, we gave the public an opportunity to comment, to provide written comment on our efforts, and we considered all of these comments during our deliberations.
The Working Group determined that the issues raised in both the DoD and the Army IG reports divided logically into five major areas. And you should have copies of the entire 13-point draft action plan before you, that is now our finalized action plan. The five areas are: First, principles for dealing with harassment; second, training; third, reporting of harassment; fourth, enforcement of standards; and fifth, performance measurement.
In action item one -- and again, this is just a summary -- we recommend that the DoD adopt an overarching principle regarding harassment, including harassment based on sexual orientation. Essentially, what this principle does is it emphasizes that treatment of all individuals with dignity and respect is essential to good order and discipline. It also focuses new and much needed attention not only on mistreatment and harassment, but on inappropriate comments and gestures. That's conduct that the DoD IG survey respondents considered most widespread -- inappropriate comments and gestures.
Third, as you'll see in the overarching principle, it places command as responsible. It requires commanders and leaders to develop and maintain a climate that fosters unit cohesion, esprit de corps, and mutual respect for all members of the command or organization.
We then concluded -- as action item number two -- that various pieces of the anti-harassment policy are currently scattered throughout statutes, service regulations, and DoD policy letters. In action item two, what we recommend is that DoD consolidate all of these policies, statutes, regulations and policy letters into a single DoD directive on harassment.
Next, our Working Group focused on training as an essential method for eliminating harassment. First, we concluded that no measures of effectiveness exist to determine whether the training programs we now have in place are working.
We recommend in action item No. 3 that the services measure training and they measure training effectiveness in three areas: knowledge, whether people understand the policies; behavior and climate.
Next, we found that service training programs contain all elements required by current law and policy; however, they don't address all the essential elements of the overarching principle. Remember, I just mentioned that we added "inappropriate comments and gestures" to the overarching principle. So we are recommending in action item four, that all elements of the overarching principle now be covered in all service training programs.
In action item five we recommend that, in order for any training to be effective, it has to be tailored to the audiences being trained and that services must review their training programs annually -- and again I stress that, annually -- to ensure that they comport with the law, with DoD policy, including the new overarching principle and implementing directive.
Together, we believe that action plan items three through five are intended to ensure that all personnel receive timely, tailored and effective training necessary to influence conduct -- and that's what we're trying to do here, influence conduct -- and eliminate harassment.
Next, we focused on reporting of harassment. What we did there was evaluate existing complaint-reporting processes by how likely they are to stop harassment and protect complainants, those who are reporting harassment.
In action item six, we concluded that the chain of command should remain the principal route for reporting harassment, and recommended that the most effective way to deal with harassment, quickly and effectively, is at the lowest possible level. On occasions when potential complainants feel uncomfortable reporting harassment within their chain of command -- and there may be occasion where that may happen -- the working group acknowledged that the services have presently, and should continue to have, alternate confidential and nonconfidential reporting avenues.
The working group recommends in action item six, that the services must ensure that all personnel are informed of both the nonconfidential and the confidential avenues and that they are encouraged to continue to use the chain of command in reporting harassment.
Next, we determined that training on reporting and receiving reports of harassment, can be improved. We concluded that people will be more willing to report harassment if they have a better understanding of the process. So you'll see in action item No. 7, we recommend that the services review the harassment-conduct policy training and anti-harassment training to ensure that all avenues to report mistreatment, harassment, inappropriate comments or gestures are addressed in their programs and that all persons receiving reports know how to handle them.
The working group also concluded that there is a lack of understanding by personnel across the services of the application of "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the context of reporting complaints of mistreatment, harassment, inappropriate comments or gestures. I think the Army IG report from Fort Campbell reiterates that point.
In action item eight, we recommend that the services ensure that, not just their training, but their directives and any guidance that they give, clearly explain that first, any complaint of harassment will be taken seriously, regardless of the actual or perceived sexual orientation of the individual.
Two, those receiving complaints of harassment must not ask about sexual orientation.
And three, those reporting harassment ought not tell or disclose sexual orientation.
Everyone must also be trained to understand the consequences of violating these principles.
Next, we focused on enforcement, and we have action items addressing the enforcement of standards. We found that enforcement of standards is essential to eliminating all forms of harassment across the board. It's also an important measure of a commander's commitment to fostering a climate of mutual respect within the command.
In action item nine, we recommend that the services ensure that commanders and leaders, that supervisors at all levels take appropriate actions against anyone who engages in mistreatment, harassment, inappropriate conduct, or -- comments -- excuse me -- or gestures.
Then you'll see, in action item 10, we are saying that they must take appropriate action also against anyone who ignores or condones harassment.
In action item 11, we're recommending that the services must review their training programs -- again, the homosexual conduct training programs and the anti-harassment training programs -- to ensure to provide tailored training to all levels of supervision on the various enforcement mechanisms that they have available to them today. That ranges from on-the-spot correction, administrative action, all the way through to actions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Finally, we focused on measurement. We concluded that current service training programs fail to measure training effectiveness and adherence to policy. As you'll recall, DoD, in an August 1999 policy memo, has already directed the service IGs to evaluate training on enforcement and application of the homosexual conduct policy.
In action item 12, what we recommend is that the service IGs add to their evaluations, when they go out, adherence now to the DoD overarching principle, which is new, and the implementing directive, which is action plan item number two, and that they add this to their inspections by measuring knowledge of these policies, behavior consistent with the policies, and climate on the installations.
Finally, in action item 13, we recommend that the services measure the extent to which their training programs and the implementation of this 13-point action plan -- how they're effective in addressing mistreatment, harassment, inappropriate comments or gestures.
And as Secretary Rostker mentioned to you earlier, Secretary of Defense Cohen has received this action plan and has approved this 13-point action plan , and an implementing memo to all service secretaries and service chiefs has been issued today.
And at this time, I would like to take any of your questions. Yes, sir?
Q: I'd like to ask if you're uncomfortable at all putting forth these directives, which, again, call for responsibility and accountability by senior commanders for this, on the same day that the Army says that the command chain, all the way up and down, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was not responsible for the death of a soldier in a company where there was a problem with gay harassment.
And -- I'm sorry -- under the new rules, under the new rules, would the chain of command, including command of the 101st Airborne, be responsible, be held accountable for not having training properly, or whatever?
DiBattiste: Under this 13-point action plan, the responsibility can rest at any level of command. What you're seeing here -- what we are saying is we have to get the message out from the top command all the way down to the lowest supervisory level, so action can be taken at the lowest level of supervision all the way up through the top levels of command. And I think that is consistent with the Army IG findings, that they are assessing accountability at appropriate levels. And one of their recommendations, my understanding, is they are sending it back to the command to determine what further action is appropriate.
Q: So if a report is not made or a commander is ignorant of what's going on in the company or the battalion or the regiment, then he or she would be held responsible for whatever?
DiBattiste: With this action plan, with the training that we're implementing today, and enhanced training -- it will build on the training that's already out there -- and with clearly stating that we want all levels of command now to be totally engaged in addressing all forms of harassment, including mistreatment, inappropriate comments and gestures, we do believe that this is a step forward because we're getting everyone involved in it, not just the highest levels, not just the lowest levels, even the intermediate levels of command, and we're training people on what clearly will be expected of them.
And another key point is the measurement, the two measurement recommendations, because we are going to now be able to go out and measure to see if what we're doing is working.
Q: Could you kindly assess for us, your own personal analysis of the extent of the problem, the nature and extent of the problem?
DiBattiste: We reviewed the DoD IG survey, and they came in and briefed us. And they told us from the beginning that they could not positively say that their survey was statistically valid. And our Working Group, though, instead of going back and questioning every aspect of the DoD IG survey, we took every conclusion they made as valid.
And if you remember, one of the conclusions that came out of the DoD IG survey was that 80 percent of the people surveyed did say that they had heard an inappropriate comment or seen an inappropriate gesture -- I believe it was within the last year. We view that to be very serious, and that's where we started as the basis of our action plan. And that is one of the reasons why you'll see in this new overarching principle that inappropriate comments and gestures are included.
So yes, I can't tell you how widespread it is, because the survey I don't think accurately told us that. But we did take everything that the survey told us as serious, and that's how we took -- we viewed our task.
Q: If I could just follow up, that IG report concluded that disparaging and even hostile attitudes towards gay men and women remain a pervasive part of military culture. Do you agree with that assessment?
DiBattiste: I don't have -- I don't know if I agree with that, because I would want to do more measurements, and that's exactly what we're doing here. I think the IG survey was a first step and it did cause us great concern, and that's why we put the two last items of the action plan into effect, because we need to continue to measure to see if it is a problem, if it's a continuing problem and if this plan is going to work. We are confident that it will, for three reasons. And I go back to the overarching principle.
First, we are saying that everyone has to be treated with dignity and respect. It's essential to good order and discipline. We can't function any other way. That includes homosexuals. They're included with everyone else in the armed forces. Second, we're saying -- we are now saying inappropriate comments and gestures will not be tolerated. And third, we're saying it is a command issue, but not just the highest levels of command; it's every level, down to the first line supervisor. We think those three things should really work to address the seriousness of the problem.
Q: If you can't answer the question, could one of your colleagues address the question about trend line? For example, is the problem as pervasive and widespread as it was a year ago? Is it getting worse? Is it getting better?
DiBattiste: We will be able to answer that after the services do their measurements, through the IGs, which you see in Action Item No. 12, and after the services come back and tell us if this action plan is effective. The only other measurement we have is the one from the DoD IG, which you have, that was done in February.
We did not go out and resurvey as part of our group. We took what the DoD IG said. The next measurement you will get will be part of Action Plan Item 12 and 13.
Q: I would just like to ask, in your opinion, which of the 13, if any, are more significant than the others, or are you going to look at them all as a collective body? Is there any one in particular that you would point to?
DiBattiste: The first one, the overarching principle, I think brings everything together. But every single one is important or we wouldn't have recommended it. We think when you put them all together, it becomes a very effective action plan if it's implemented according to our directives.
Q: Do you have a timing in all this? Immediate?
DiBattiste: The secretary of -- under secretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, Dr. Rostker, signed out a memo today to the services. Now the services have to go back and put this plan in action. There is no time period right now on the implementing memo. And I will tell you, from putting this plan together with my working group, it is going to take some work from the services to go back and do everything we're telling them to do.
Q: Two questions. First, on your recommendation number six, it says "personnel should be informed of other confidential and non-confidential avenues." Now, the Army IG report says that when Winchell went to the local IG, he was thrown back to the company commander. Under this recommendation, should Winchell then -- if he goes to the IG, would the IG, say, sit down and listen to him, or would they still -- should they still send him back to the company commander?
DiBattiste: Under this recommendation, the IG would send them back to the company commander. The confidential avenues that we are talking about in, I think it's action plan item six, seven or eight, are lawyer-client privilege in an attorney-client relationship, or privilege that exists with clergymen. They are the two established privileges, confidential. Any others are not established privileges, and we will train in this action plan item, the training will cover confidential avenues and non-confidential avenues.
But more important than that, and I need to stress this -- first and foremost, if you go to action plan item eight, what we're saying is no one should be asking about anyone's sexual orientation when they're receiving a report of harassment, and the person reporting harassment ought not be telling. We're going to get the training to be very clear; that's clear, that's simple, get that message out so there will be no need to hear about anyone's sexual orientation when they are reporting harassment or receiving reports of harassment.
Q: Second question, World War II didn't take as long as getting the policy implemented. Why is it so hard?
DiBattiste: We worked very hard over the last four months to develop an action plan where we think the key tools are in place: the overarching principle, which is key; training to teach the overarching principle; and then enforcement and measurement. I think we've put together a plan that will work. It took us a lot of work, a lot of deliberation and a lot of thought.
These are complicated issues, when we're trying to work with a homosexual conduct policy and the anti-harassment policy and ensure that we can get the word out to all of our members. And that's why you'll see another key part of this is tailored training to various grade levels and levels of responsibility, because different people understand different things about the policy, and a lot of what they understand are misconceptions. We found the best way to do this is through the principle, training, enforcement and measurement. We think we've got it right this time, and the measurement part of this will tell us.
Q: Just quickly -- but I don't quite understand how someone would report harassment without getting into the details of the nature of the harassment.
DiBattiste: They can get into the details of the nature of the harassment, but there is no need for them to say, "And I'm homosexual." They could say, "Someone harassed me and said I was homosexual." That's very different from saying, "And I am homosexual."
We are saying they report the circumstances of the harassment and nothing about their sexual orientation. I think that's pretty clear.
Q: It's pretty clear that you can make that distinction and you can come up and say they --
DiBattiste: I could make that distinction as an --
Q: Well, explain that, because I would like to know how.
DiBattiste: If I were a service member, which I was for 20 years, enlisted and officer, and someone told me those rules very clearly: If you get harassed and you are reporting harassment, you should not talk about your sexual orientation; tell the circumstances about the harassment, but there is no need to add to the end of that, "And by the way, I'm homosexual."
Q: How can you ensure that that doesn't spark an investigation, though, when SLDN has specifically said that part of what has triggered investigations of people is when they come forward and don't say, "I am gay," but say, "I'm being harassed for being gay." I mean, how does number eight not trigger the problem of an investigation against a person who happens to be gay but was trying to be closeted and live under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy?
DiBattiste: It does, because it clearly tells the people that we're asking to receive the reports of harassment that they shouldn't be asking. They know the rules, clearly, simply. And the people telling know the rules now clearly and simply.
So one knows: "Don't ask about sexual orientation. Get the details about the person that was harassed and what happened to them." The other knows: "You can tell the circumstances surrounding the harassment -- "They said this about me" -- that's very different from saying -- "And I am telling you about me." It's a clear distinction.
Q: Well, let's say that somebody did say, "This is what happened to me," not, "I'm saying who I am," and that did trigger an investigation, what would happen?
DiBattiste: The commander or the supervisor -- and we're hoping this will happen at the lower level of supervision -- would go to the person that was the harasser, as them questions, the surrounding circumstances, and take disciplinary action if necessary. And there may --
Q: No, but what would happen if an investigation of the service member claiming about harassment, what if the complaint triggered an investigation of that person for being gay? I mean, you're saying it shouldn't, but what if it did? Because people have repeatedly -- critics of the policy have repeatedly said that's what is happening.
DiBattiste: We don't -- we have anecdotal evidence of that happening. With this reinforcement, it should not happen. Remember, we're going to train everyone now across the services at all levels of grade and responsibility. So in the cases where it does happen, you're asking, if someone does go in and says that they're homosexual, or during the course of investigating the harassment -- can you be more clear?
Q: Well, I'm saying they're not saying they're gay; the person goes in and says, "Somebody is harassing me who says I'm gay. They're leaving graffiti around. I'm frightened for my life." And rather than doing what you say, in the best of all circumstances, is supposed to happen, what ends up happening is an investigation is launched against that person to see whether or not they're gay and whether or not they should be discharged from the military. I mean, how -- what if that ends up happening? What would happen to the people who --
DiBattiste: That should not be happening under this policy.
Q: And if it does?
DiBattiste: If it does, and -- first of all, the next level of command should be making sure that it doesn't happen, because under the August 1999 memo that Secretary de Leon mentioned, in order to even initiate an initial investigation, the JAG at the lower level has to consult with the judge advocate at the higher level of command. That's our check and balance.
And furthermore, if a commander is going to initiate what we call a substantial investigation -- and that would be one, if they're questioning a statement of a service member as to whether it's true, as to whether they're homosexual or not -- they have to come to secretarial level of each of the armed forces. So we have checks and balances in place to ensure that's not happening.
Q: You're focusing a lot today on conduct and not about attitude, and I understand why. But is there an internal contradiction that troubles you, as somebody who's trying to implement an anti-harassment policy and trying to prevent another Winchell killing? Is there an internal contradiction that you've concerned about that you're sending a message of "treat these people with respect, people who may be perceived to be gay, people who may be gay; treat all people with respect, but these are the very same people that, if we find out they're gay, we'll take them out of the service"?
DiBattiste: It's not an internal contradiction, but it is a difficulty in putting this together. That's why enforcement and measurement of enforcement is so important. It is a dilemma, and that's why we are regulating behavior and not attitude, as you so well pointed out.
We believe that if we can stick to ensuring that people treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their race, creed, color, sex, religion, or sexual orientation, that's the high road that we need to take and enforce and make all supervisory levels aware of it and be committed to the enforcement of it.
But I mean, you point out some very good things. It's -- I don't see an inherent conflict; I just see it makes it more challenging to ensure that we get it right.
Q: Excuse me. I would just like to ask Secretary Rostker, because I've asked this twice, and I don't feel I've gotten a straight answer yet. Perhaps I've done it poorly. One of the basic premises of this whole thing for me is that commanders are responsible for training, controlling people like the two people who killed the private. Is this going to work?
You warn here that commanders must be held accountable. Is this going to work if command heads don't roll when something like this happens?
Rostker: You know, I think a death is tragic. A death under these circumstances is extremely tragic. I think you have to look at the details of the situation, and that's why the Army -- that General Clark asked for the IG and why the secretary sent the IG in.
I can imagine, Charlie, that there are circumstances where dereliction of duty up and down the chain was possible. The IG looked for that, looked for a pervasive climate at Fort Campbell, and didn't find it. I was asked earlier today whether I endorsed or didn't endorse the IG's findings, and I put a great deal of weight on the objectivity of the methods he went through. He threw a wide net. He spoke to a great many people. He had all of the tools at his disposal to find that a pervasive climate existed, and yet he did not find that. And you'll have a chance to review the work and the raw data, if you will, from that report. And so I accept his judgment on the chain of command.
I can imagine that under different circumstances, that methodology might have come up with a different answer. So I think it depends upon the individual. I think it's very difficult to go to a tragic circumstance like this and then demand that heads roll without due consideration to what the facts are in the case, and the IG tried to provide those facts.
Q: Would you call this a crackdown? And I will ask you, too, that under the new rules, will the chain of command be responsible in a similar situation to what happened at Fort Campbell?
Rostker: I think the chain of command will be certainly responsible for the training, for the effectiveness of the training. But in the final analysis, can we control three soldiers in a barracks? If you get into the details of the case that are in the public domain, this is a very complicated case. It's a very tragic case. And ultimately, it comes down to the people who perpetrated the crime being apprehended and punished.
And then the question is, was their behavior really systemic? Was it really a problem? And some problems have been pointed out, the drinking in the barracks and the like, and I think those are serious things that we have to be accounted for. But whether or not this is a failure, as Tom talks about it, of "don't ask, don't tell"; "don't ask, don't tell" was a compromise policy that was designed to provide an opportunity for those who were gay to serve their country in a zone of privacy by not being asked a question and not telling an answer.
And our responsibility under "don't ask, don't tell" is to make it compatible to the harassment regulations. And it is very, very important that we provide protection to individuals from harassment, from hassles, from assaults, and that that protection is given absolutely, without regard to the nature of what the underlying facts are.
It is immaterial whether a soldier is homosexual or not, if he asks for protection from being harassed. The issue that a company commander -- the chain of command should go: Is he being harassed? If the answer is yes, it's knock it off. There is no excuse to harass based upon any additional facts.
There is an absolute right of a service member to tell the chain of command, if ever asked under any circumstance -- "Are you homosexual?" -- to tell them: That is an inappropriate question and I'm not going to answer it. And that answer should not be the basis -- cannot be the basis for any further inquiry. And the requirements we have for substantiation of information has always made it clear, from the beginning of the policy, that that is not the basis for an inquiry.
Now, I can't deal with the specifics of the cases that may or may not talk to this, but the policy is clear and our obligation to carry out that policy is clear. The question -- "Are you homosexual?" -- is never in order, ever. The requirement to answer that question is never required, not required to gain full protection from a hassle-free and harassment-free environment. And to the extent that there is any confusion about those answers, the inappropriateness of the question, the right not to answer that question, that will be cleared up in the training we're talking about here.
Q: Excuse me. The president has called this policy of "don't ask, don't tell" "out of whack". Do either of you --
Rostker: The president also has said this policy, or the underlining statement, which is homosexual conduct is incompatible with military service, is the law of the land. And this is a policy that was worked out as a compromise, and I would tell you I believe it has given a great deal of privacy to individuals throughout the services.
The vast majority of our separations are voluntary statements, which we largely do not challenge. The days of witch hunts, the days of stakeouts are really gone. And, yes, there are groups that would like to go further, but given where we are legally, and given the compromise that was worked out, we are trying to provide -- to meet that policy in a diligent, straightforward manner.
Q: If I could finish my sentence, please, sir?
Q: The president has said, has characterized the policy of "don't ask, don't tell" as "out of whack." Do you agree with that characterization?
Rostker: I don't agree with that characterization. I think the policy is working reasonably well to provide a degree of safety for those who want to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation.
Q: You are now instituting a massive program to ensure day-to-day respect for people who aren't allowed to say who they are. Isn't there a bit of a contradiction there?
Rostker: This is the policy that was worked out by all involved, including the United States Congress. It's the policy that we are -- will implement to the best of our abilities.
Q: Wouldn't it be easier simply to allow openly gay service?
Rostker: It's not the law of the land. And the policy is workable; it has been working for the vast majority of all service members. Unfortunately, we do get into a situation like this, and this is -- there have been other situations. I'm sure there will yet be other situations, because ultimately we can't control every person in every situation. But we can clearly make clear what our policy is, what our expectation is.
And I think it's very important that we have held responsible those who perpetrated the crime and an inquiry into the organization. We've taken action to remove people who we feel -- from a leadership position -- who are not accomplishing what we want.
Whether that has reached a level of criminal culpability is yet to be determined, in terms of referring this back. But the chain of command acted appropriately when they saw a leadership failure by removing the irritant from a leadership position.
Q: You -- both of you have pointed out that what we're focusing on is the issue of conduct and not attitudes, and you just pointed out that you can't always control what happens with three people in a barracks all alone. What is being announced today that would have in any way prevented the killing of Private Winchell? What would have prevented the kinds of attitudes and comments and feelings and et cetera that led to the actual beating of someone to death?
Rostker: I think you know, as the under secretary has briefed, that we have clarified and expanded, in these actions, the concept of harassment. For the vast majority of our people, you can read these statements and say they're common sense. I mean, this is the way I behave in my office; I'm sure it's the way you behave in your offices. And it's unfortunate that sometimes we have to take what we all understand is the way we should behave and put it down on a piece of paper for those few people who don't get it.
And that with the training, will hopefully help those who get it. But in the final analysis we can codify, we can train, we can hold people responsible. And if we have a tragedy like we had at Fort Campbell, we will hold people fully culpable. And that's what we did with the two people, who are now in jail.
Q: Haven't commanders always been responsible for the climate of their command and for reining in subordinates who are abusive to their subordinates?
Rostker: Absolutely. But what we found to -- I think -- our surprise here was that verbal abuse was not codified within our regulations, except in the Navy. And that largely came out of the Tailhook experience. And now we have corrected that oversight. But that doesn't mean that, for the vast majority of good officers and good NCOs, we needed that correction. And it almost is self-evident, but now we have closed that unfortunate loophole.
Staff: Thank you very much.
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