SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, last December, President Obama directed DOD to report back to him within a year with a full-scale review of DOD's progress in the fight against sexual assault in the military.
Chairman Dempsey, General Snow, and I briefed the president earlier this week on that report and the results. And today, I'm announcing the review's findings, as well as the latest actions we're taking to continue to improve DOD's prevention and response efforts.
I want to thank everyone -- and there were many, many involved in this -- but I want to thank everyone who was involved in this comprehensive review, which was organized and directed by our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and supported by the Defense Manpower Data Center.
I want to thank, in particular, our undersecretary for personnel and readiness, Under Secretary Jess Wright. As I think you all know, she has announced her retirement after 40 distinguished years of service to this country. I asked Secretary Wright if she would stay on the job until this mission was complete. She did, and I appreciate that. I know our Defense Department and men and women of this department appreciate it, as well. And thank you, Jess, for your service to this country, many, many long and, as I said, distinguished years that you've given to this country.
Also, General Jeff Snow, to you, thank you. As you all know, General Snow heads up our SAPRO office. To your team, Jeff, thank you for what you've done, your direction, your leadership, your commitment. And to all who work with you, we appreciate it.
I think you all know that General Snow is going to stay after my remarks. I'll take a couple of questions, and then he can take you down into the depth of the review and the results and go as far as you want to go with this. We've, incidentally, briefed members of Congress on this over the last 24 hours, as well. As I said, General Dempsey and General Snow and I briefed the president on this two days ago. And the White House has all been briefed.
The review both was about qualitative and quantitative measures. We needed and used both to evaluate our progress here at DOD. We asked the RAND Corporation to independently administer a department- wide survey, which was the largest ever of its kind. It received over 145,000 voluntary responses, which is the highest response rate we've ever seen.
We conducted focus groups that gave us not only direct feedback from our own people, but also recommendations, important recommendations, many of which have been incorporated into the directives that I'm issuing today. And for the first time ever, we talked to survivors of sexual assault in the military to learn where they have seen progress and where we need to do better.
Overall, the data shows that while there have been indications of real progress, measurable progress over the last two years, with improvement in 10 of the 12 specific measures, including reduced prevalence and increased reporting, we still have a long way to go.
Sexual assault threatens the lives and well-being of both the women and the men who serve our country in uniform. It destroys the bonds of trust and confidence which is at the heart of our military. Eradicating sexual assault from our ranks is not only essential to the long-term health and readiness of the force, it is also about honoring our highest commitments to protect our fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.
The Department of Defense has been taking aggressive action over the past year-and-a-half to stop sexual assault. I made this, and I think as you all know, one of my highest priorities as secretary of defense. And as I think you all know, I've directed over 28 new initiatives over the last year to strengthen how we prevent and respond to sexual assault in the military, how we support the survivors of this despicable crime, how we screen, educate and train our people, and how we hold accountable not only offenders, but also DOD as an institution, and all of our leaders.
We recommended significant military justice systems reforms that have since been codified into law, with the help of Congress, with the help of the White House, and outside groups that have given us much counsel on this and support and help.
We improved victims' rights and privacy, and we implemented a groundbreaking special victims' council program across DOD, giving survivors for the first time a voice in the military justice process.
We believe that our efforts to prevent sexual assault are beginning to have an impact. Compared to 2012, the DOD-wide survey we are releasing today shows that the prevalence of sexual assault in the military over the past year has decreased by about 25 percent. We also found that most service members highly rated their commander's efforts to promote a healthy climate of dignity and respect and discourage inappropriate behavior. And nearly 90 percent reported taking action to prevent an assault when they saw the risk of one occurring.
We also believe that survivors are becoming more confident in the military's response to sexual assault. Compared to 2010, because more survivors participated in the justice system than ever before, we've been able to hold more perpetrators accountable. We now have over 1,000 full-time certified response coordinators and victim advocates and over 17,000 volunteer personnel ready to assist survivors.
And after last year's unprecedented 50 percent increase in reporting, the rate has continued to go up. That's actually good news. Two years ago, we estimated about one in 10 sexual assaults were being reported. Today, it's one in four. These crimes, however, are still heavily underreported, both nationally and in the military, so we must maintain our focus throughout the ranks and continue to earn the confidence of survivors.
One of the most important ways of earning that confidence is to reduce retaliation against people who report sexual assault. This is a challenge we are very aware of and have been addressing. We now have better data to help us to keep working to be more effective in stopping this retaliation.
In 2014, over 60 percent of women who reported a sexual assault perceived some kind of retaliation, often in the form of social retaliation by co-workers or peers. We must tackle this difficult problem head on, because, like sexual assault itself, reprisal directly contradicts one of the highest values our military, that we protect our brothers and our sisters in uniform.
When someone reports a sexual assault, they need to be embraced and helped, not ostracized or punished with retribution. Today, I am issuing four new directives to help close these gaps and build on what we've already done. We are developing new procedures to engage commanders to prevent professional and social retaliation. We're also revamping training for junior officers, junior enlisted supervisors, and civilian supervisors so that they are better prepared to both prevent and respond to sexual assault within their units and also to reduce the potential for retaliation.
While these initiatives will take time to have an impact, they are critical for lasting change. Additionally, to better understand how local environments influence the risk of sexual assault, we are undertaking a wide-ranging study of prevention efforts at a variety of military installations nationwide.
There's much more to be done. For example, RAND’s data showed we have a long way to go in fighting the cultural stigmas that discourage reporting among men and in addressing assaults that hide under the veneers of hazing or practical jokes. And we must continually reinforce accountability up and down the chain of command.
Based on the many conversations I've had with service members all over this country, and around the world, I'm also concerned that there may be an increasing use of social media for sexual harassment. Like sexual assault, this problem is not new or unique to the military, but DOD holds its people to a higher standard. If you want to wear the uniform, understanding our core values is not enough. On-duty or off- duty, we must live these ideals and enforce our values every day. DOD will continue its strong and committed efforts to pursue comprehensive and dynamic approaches to fighting sexual assault in the military.
President Obama and all of DOD's leaders, both military and civilian, are committed to doing whatever it takes to stamp out this scourge. In May, I told you about my visit to the DOD safe helpline for survivors of sexual assault. I told you about the wall I saw that was covered in anonymous Post-It notes, notes that contained inspiring words of thanks spoken by individuals who called into the hotline.
I thought about those notes, as I know all our leaders have over the months. We ultimately want a military with no more victims, no more calls, no more Post-It notes, no more needed help, and no more efforts to stop it, because it will be stopped. We're not there yet, but we will get there.
Until then, we will continue working relentlessly to prevent sexual assault. And we will give survivors the help and support they need. I want to thank you all for your coverage of this issue, your continued coverage.
And before I take a couple of questions, I want to acknowledge our vice chiefs of our services, some chiefs here who are with us this afternoon. Their efforts, their leadership, their commitment at stamping out sexual assault would not have come as far as we have come -- thank you -- without your help and all of your people, and I'm glad you're here today. It's been a privilege to work with you on this and many other issues. Thank you very much for what you do.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. Before General Snow proceeds with his details and answering your questions of the results and recommendations, I'd be glad to take a couple of your questions. Lita?
Q: Mr. Secretary, if I might, I'd like to ask you something on a separate topic. As you've seen over the last couple of days, there's been a lot of reporting on your decision to resign, including a lot of observation that you were forced out or forced to resign. Did you feel pressure to resign, either spoken or unspoken at all? And did that play a role in your decision?
And you -- John McCain said that he talked to about you this and that you expressed some frustration with national security decision- making, and he pointed to micromanagement. Was that also a factor in your decision? And how big a problem do you think that was and is?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, as to your first comment, I haven't really noticed there's been any attention given to this over the last year, but I'm flattered, especially in the last week, you would concern yourselves about this.
The real question that you ask, I would answer it this way. First, you've heard the president's comments on this. And I'll let those comments speak for themselves. But the president and I, over the last few weeks, have had private discussions. When I say private, no one else has been in the room. The president of the United States and me.
So with all the speculation and all the smart people figuring out what was said and what wasn't said, only two people know what was said. That's the president and me. So I'll give you my brief version, and then you can ask the president for his, but he has spoken, I think, directly on this.
I submitted my resignation to the president of the United States. This was a mutual decision based on the discussions that we had. I don't think there's ever one overriding or defining decision in situations like this, unless there's some obvious issue -- and there wasn't, between either one of us.
I always looked at this job as a job, first, of immense privilege, which I have expressed to the president -- and I said so many times over, which I'll always be grateful to the president for this privilege -- but also, when you look over the last two years, and it will be two years in February I've been here, part of leadership is -- as you build -- and hopefully build and participate and contribute to an institution is you build on a process. I built on to what my predecessors, my most immediate predecessor, Secretary Gates and Secretary Panetta, did, what they had to do. I took on a different set of challenges over the last two years.
And the preparation of an institution is probably the most significant responsibility a leader has to hand, that off to someone who is coming in behind you. And the discussions the president and I had were about the next two years. How is he best prepared to lead this country? And how is this institution best prepared to do the things that he must have assurance that are prepared to do, options, capabilities, capacities?
And going back to the first point I made about the last two years, we've had a tremendous amount of challenges over the last two years, and I'm very proud of how this institution and its leaders, Chairman Dempsey, all of our chiefs, our secretaries, both military, uniform and civilian, have handled them, have responded. I'm proud of my leadership over here, how we've done it.
But the next two years is another -- another zone, I think, of kinds of challenges for this country. And leaders have to be wise enough to know that. And as we talk through it, the president and I did, we both came to the conclusion that I think the country was best served with new leadership. He thought it was over in this institution, after we had talked through it.
I made my contribution during my time. And I'm proud of that, of what we did, and I -- I feel very confident and very secure about, as I leave here, that we, all of us together, not Secretary Hagel, but all of us as a team, have prepared this institution over the last two years to take on these big issues that are ahead.
Those issues are still undefinable. We know of some of them. We know of long-term challenges. But I think you have to know when to leave, too. And as I said, there were just two of us in the room during these discussions. And we had some very direct and very honest relationships.
I would also say that, as the president has said, the president is a friend. I consider him a friend. He's said that about me, which I appreciate. Friends can talk plainly to each other.
He's president of the United States. I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States. But we talked as friends. We talked as Americans. We talked as senior leaders for this country who both have awesome responsibility.
As to any differences, referencing Senator McCain, there were no major differences in any major area. Sure, there are always issues of style, and how you get things done, and are things moving fast enough, but this country, as I've said, is well served to have a president like President Obama, who is thoughtful, who is careful. This is a time that a powerful nation, the most powerful nation on Earth, must be very wise in its implementation of its power.
It must do so with a clear, steady sense of who it is, what it wants to accomplish, always looking for-- out for the longer term, not just the quick decision -- impacts, consequences, ripple effects. Great powers have that awesome responsibility. A president of the United States has that awesome responsibility. And I've been proud to serve in his administration.
And I leave here, again, very, very, very proud that I've had this opportunity and very secure in knowing that these people and the next secretary that comes behind me will be better prepared than we were two years ago, not having anything to do with my predecessors, because they've -- they did tremendous work, but their challenges were totally different, what Bob Gates faced, what Leon Panetta faced, what Chuck Hagel faced. We bring a new leader in; we'll face a new set of challenges.
Q: Was Senator McCain wrong when he said...
SEC. HAGEL: I've already answered the question.
Q: I'm afraid I'm going to keep on the same track here. I mean, you're suggesting, perhaps, that you came into office thinking somehow you might -- let me just ask you this -- that you might only stay a couple of years, but nobody I know really thinks of you as someone who would quit.
So the question goes back to you. Why did you feel you could not stay and finish the job? If there are all these new challenges, was -- respectfully, with all due respect, was ISIS too much? Was sequestration too much? Why did you -- not the president, not the NSC -- why didn't you want to stay and finish the job, sir?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, two answers to your two basic questions. Number one, I didn't come into this office with any preconceived notion I'm staying four years, one year, three years. This is a business that -- that's always unpredictable. You recognize that going in. So I never said I would be here two years or four years. So that's -- that's the first part of your question.
No one ever knows about a job, especially a big job, until you get in it, until you're the actual practitioner of the job. Now, you can read about it. Your predecessors can tell you about it. You can think you know about it, and you can write about it and broadcast about it, but nobody knows about these jobs.
SEC. HAGEL: Let me finish. Second, it wasn't a matter of whether I thought I could stay here for another two years. I've thought I explained that. That wasn't the issue. Whether I thought I could do the job, whether it was ISIL or any other challenge, that wasn't the issue.
What I said here just a moment ago was, as you look forward, the next two years, and the challenges that are coming, as I thought through it, as the president and I talked about it, I think fresh leadership is not unimportant in all areas. But the president and I had a long -- actually had more than one conversation about all this -- and so it wasn't a matter of was ISIL too much or the budgets too much. No.
It was, as I said -- I think leadership comes with a responsibility of also knowing when it is probably a good time to let someone else come in and -- come in behind and pick up where you have left off, as you have built, as Panetta did, as Gates did, an institution.
Q: You didn't want to stay?
SEC. HAGEL: It's not a matter of what I wanted to do and what I didn't want to do, Barbara. It's a matter of what I thought was best for this institution, for the country, and for the president. And this has been a great job, and I have -- I've loved every minute of this job. I really have.
But, as I think ahead, as I've already told you, this may be hard for some people to understand it, but you've got to be in these jobs to understand what's ahead and how to prepare an institution and what's best for an institution.
Now, let's just use -- take this a little further. I think everybody knows that most likely there's going to be a rotation of a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff next year, a vice chairman of some of the chiefs. That's the president's call ultimately. But there's most likely going to be a rotation of senior leaders. And as I thought through this, this is probably the right time for a new team for the next -- the next two years, for all the other reasons that I've mentioned.
I just -- one other point. As I began my comments to Lita, it's not one defining issue for me. It would be different if there was one thing, but I just could not accept -- or I just couldn't do -- or whatever it would be. No, it wasn't that at all.
But it's a combination of things, as you think through these things, and the president and I talked about it, so I'm very comfortable with my position and my decision. I think the president feels good about it; I do-- I feel good about it.
This country is such a great country. This institution is so much the core of who we are as a people. And I've always tried to do everything in my life based on what I thought was best for the country or for the institution I represented, not that I'm a selfless person. I'm not.
But I just -- one last point -- I'll end here. Forty-six years ago today, I arrived at Oakland, California, on a transit back from Vietnam, after I'd spent one year in Vietnam, 46 years ago today. If anybody would have told Sergeant Hagel walking off that plane with my duffel bag where I'd be 46 years down the road, that would have been pretty hard for me to believe it. I mean, the privileges I've had have just been tremendous.
Thank you all. Happy holidays. Thank you. (Laughter.)
Q: One question on the -- on the subject of this news conference?
MAJOR GENERAL JEFFREY SNOW: Okay. (Laughter.)
I guess it's called "last man standing." Well, listen, I'd like to follow up and, as the secretary articulated, kind of go into the details of the report. So I'll walk you through a set of slides, try and hit the highlights, reinforce some of the points.
First point I'd like to make is: This report is comprehensive. It covers a lot of ground. It's over 1,000 pages long. In addition to the overall report by the Department of Defense, each of the military departments and the National Guard Bureau contributed a supporting report further detailing their progress. The secretary also agreed to a request by the Coast Guard to include a submission, because they model their program after ours.
The report reviews by line of effort significant improvements made in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, criminal investigations, and the military justice system over the past three years. The report contains preliminary results from a force-wide prevalence survey conducted independently this year by the RAND Corporation and overseen by Dr. Andrew Morral and Dr. Christie Gore, both of which are here today. They will be providing a separate briefing on the results of their survey following today's press conference. It also contains results from the new survivor experience survey, what the secretary mentioned, and a service member focus group effort, both fielded by the Defense Manpower Data Center and overseen by Dr. Elizabeth Van Winkle, also here today.
The report further provides us provisional statistical data about the reports of sexual assault received by the department during fiscal year 2014. While we believe that this report demonstrates significant progress, we are in no way suggesting that we have accomplished our mission of eliminating sexual assault from the United States Armed Forces. We've got much more work to do. And to this end, as you just heard, the secretary is directing initiatives to further enhance the growing climate of dignity and respect.
Now, as most of you know, the department established a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program in 2005. In the ensuing years, we've taken many steps to enhance and improve our efforts to help victims heal, hold offenders appropriately accountable, and encourage force-wide support in the prevention of these crimes.
However, starting in 2012, then-Secretary Panetta and Secretary Hagel energized the program by giving it their personal attention. In 2012, the Joint Chiefs of Staff also provided strategic guidance to the field on sexual assault prevention and response, guidance that eventually became the department-wide strategic plan that Secretary Hagel issued in 2013.
This unprecedented, sustained senior leadership engagement has driven much of the progress contained in the report to the president. In fact, Mr. Hagel's willingness to put this problem on his weekly schedule has been a key factor that has sustained much of the attention paid to this problem. Over the past three years, the secretaries of defense have directed 41 initiatives to improve, expand or field new capabilities for sexual assault prevention and response. Many of these initiatives have been codified by law, making them permanent.
To assist with describing our system and illustrating progress along key points in the system, the White House requested that the department develop metrics. In February of this year, the department delivered and the White House approved a set of 12 metrics. Also included were a set of six non-metrics designed to illustrate certain aspects of the military justice system.
While metrics are typically developed with the understanding that inputs can be tailored to generate certain outcomes, the non-metrics are simply observations about the justice system that we try not to influence, as doing so would be considered an undue command influence under military law.
As the secretary just told you, overall, the department found evidence in 10 of 12 metrics. Descriptions of these metrics and a summary about our progress on them have been included in the back of the slide deck provided to you.
The report also details our progress in many additional areas that demonstrate our focus on prevention and our uncompromising commitment to victim assistance. These improvements are solid, substantive changes to how our program is applied across the force.
Our leading indicators about the problem of sexual assault show continued progress. Our survey results indicate that there were 6,000 to 7,000 fewer sexual assaults in 2014 than in 2012, while our reports of sexual assault continued at the same high rate last year. In fact, in 2014, we experienced an 8 percent increase in reports of sexual assault made to DOD authorities.
And I think some in the media outlets got this incorrect. They reported an increase in the report as an increase in sexual assaults, and I want to make it very clear that is not true. The increase was in reports, which as you all know, in this particular crime, an increase in reports is a -- are a good thing. So given the decrease in prevalence and the increase in reporting, we estimate that we heard from one in four victims, up from one in 10 in 2012.
I'd like to -- I'll just tell you -- condensing a report of this size to a short briefing does not do justice to the progress that the department has made over the past three years. Nonetheless, I'll try and give you some highlights.
The department approaches this problem through its strategic plan organized by lines of effort. So listed on this slide are some of the top examples of progress from each line of effort, and contained in the report are more examples per line of effort and evidence of the progress you can review for yourself.
For example, the prevention line of effort captures the work we're doing to stop the crime. Past research shows that there are likely to be fewer sexual assaults in units with healthy climates.
As a result, in 2013, the secretary directed every unit commander to be required to regularly assess their unit and act on the feedback from that assessment. That assessment process includes some accountability measures, as well. Each commander's immediate supervisor is also provided the results of that assessment. And then each of the services has implemented policy that allows unit commanders' actions to be assessed annually on their performance evaluation.
So this cycle of assessment, feedback, action, and evaluation is something that the department has not had in prior years. And we do expect it to be a particularly powerful aid in promoting long-lasting and meaningful organizational change to prevent not only sexual assault, but other factors that impact unit health.
Another top example about progress is something that was just fully enacted this year across the department, and that is the Special Victims' Counsel Program, as it is known in the Army and the Air Force, and the Victims' Legal Counsel Program, as it is known in the Navy and the Marine Corps.
And this is the program that provides an attorney to victims of sexual assault for consultation and representation in the military justice process. While this program is less than a year old, initial indications are that the victims are highly satisfied with the services rendered by these attorneys. We will be watching closely how this program impacts sexual assault reporting and victim participation as it matures and becomes a robust part of the department's response system and justice process.
While time will not permit me to go into greater detail on these and other examples of progress, the steps we have taken energized by our leadership are real and tangible, and this progress has a demonstrable effect on some of the statistics that I'd now like to go into. As many of you know, we use prevalence rates to estimate the extent of the sexual assault in the military. Between 2012 and 2014, prevalence of unwanted sexual contact decreased significantly for military women and trended downward for men. Rates of unwanted sexual contact are down significantly for both men and women from levels seen in 2006.
The prevalence estimates this year came from a RAND military workplace study, an independent survey effort taken at the request of the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And Dr. Morral will describe this effort in more detail at another press event following this one.
Now, as I said earlier, official reports of sexual assault in 2014 continued at the same high levels we saw in 2013, and actually increased by 8 percent. As you can see on the chart, reporting increased substantially between 2012 and 2014. Last year and this year -- and I think this is an important statistic -- 9 percent of the reports we received were from victims who were seeking assistance from an incident that occurred prior to them coming into the military service.
We see these reports as particularly encouraging, and it has an indicator of confidence in the response system. Victims in these cases are only seeking assistance as the department lacks jurisdiction over the perpetrators in nearly all of these cases.
This chart demonstrates the progress the department is making in closing the gap between our estimated prevalence of sexual assault and the reporting of the crime. The blue points across the top of the slide are population estimates of active-duty service members who experience unwanted sexual contact, and the years noted, and are based on the scientifically conducted surveys of the force.
As you can see, in 2014, about 4.3 percent of women and 0.9 percent of men indicated experienced unwanted sexual contact in the year prior to being surveyed. So using these rates, we estimate that about 19,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2014.
The red points across the bottom of the chart are the number of active-duty service members who make a report of sexual assault in the years noted. These are reports made to law enforcement or sexual assault response coordinators, and as you can see, the number of active-duty service members making a report increased substantially in the past two years, initially as we received the report from 4,608 service members.
Given this year's prevalence and reporting rates, we estimate that we received a report from about 24 percent, or the one in four military victims of sexual assault, in 2014. And this is up from about 11 percent, or one in 10, victims in 2012. So that is progress in terms of closing this gap.
However, there is considerable difference in estimated reporting rates between women and men. While we estimate that 40 percent of female victims made a report in 2014, only 10 percent of estimated male victims made a report. So clearly we have more work to do to encourage men to come forward.
It is the department's intent to close this reporting gap by bringing prevalence rates down with our prevention work and by encouraging greater reporting by victims.
That being said, reporting a sexual assault is a highly personal choice and one that may never be right for some. We respect that decision. And for them, we have the support and services available through the DOD's safe help line, which is 100 percent anonymous and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For those victims who are considering reporting to their department, we've provided them with options and services, which they can choose to assist them with the handling and, if desired, help them navigate the military justice process.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, please reach out to one of our trained counselors at the DOD safe help line at www.safehelpline.org.
This slide demonstrates the disposition of military members made by commanders under the legal authority of the department. Of the 2,419 service members accused of a sexual assault, the department had evidence to take some kind of action against 73 percent of them. Actions could be taken for a sexual assault offense or any other form of misconduct that was discovered during the criminal investigation. Action against the remaining 27 percent could not be taken due to such factors as insufficient evidence of an offense to prosecute, victims declining to participate in the justice process, and other evidence- based reasons.
As you can see, the percentage of cases ending in some type of action is up considerably from the 57 percent in 2009. And we believe this does represent the investments the department has made in the training and resourcing of criminal investigators and attorneys over the years.
This slide answers the question, how do military commanders address allegations of sexual assault when they have sufficient evidence of a sexual assault and no legal authority over the accused? As you can see by the red line, in 2014, two-thirds of the commanders, supported by legal advice from their judge advocate, chose to address sexual assault allegations by preferring court martial charges.
The evidence of misconduct in 21 percent of subject cases this year was best addressed by the non-judicial punishment process, and 14 percent received some form of administrative action or discharge.
Please keep in mind the offenses being described here range from crimes like groping up through penetrating crimes like rape, and each disposition reflects the level of evidence and severity of the crime according to the legal standards of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Also contained in the report -- and the secretary mentioned this -- is the first-of-its-kind anonymous survey of military survivors of sexual assault who made a restricted or unrestricted report to the department in 2014. What is reflected in the report is our initial analysis of about 150 survey responses and what we plan to be an ongoing survey. We strongly believe that feedback from survivors who have used our services is an important source of data that we can use to improve and expand our support.
Overall, most survivors that responded to our survey were aware of and satisfied with the assistance they received from our first responders and service providers. Of note, the special victims' counsel attorneys and sexual assault response coordinators were the most highly rated by survivors who use these services, receiving 90 percent and 89 percent satisfaction ratings respectively.
Of most concern -- and the secretary also spoke to this -- were the victims who perceived some kind of social or professional retaliation. Fifty-nine percent of survivors indicated they perceived some type of social retaliation associated with their report, and 40 percent indicated they perceived some kind of professional retaliation. Behaviors associated with both of these terms are defined for you at the bottom of the slide.
While this survivor survey was not generalizable to the full force, we asked RAND to ask about perceptions of retaliation, as well on the scientific survey of active-duty this summer. Of those women who experienced unwanted sexual contact and reported it to DOD authority, 62 percent indicated perceiving some kind of retaliation associated with the report, with most perceiving social retaliation and a lesser amount perceiving professional retaliation. This is admittedly one metric in which the department cannot demonstrate progress.
One additional insight we were able to gain from the survivor experience survey is that commanders received fairly high marks in their support of victims, but these high marks did not extend to all -- to all as you move down the chain of command. This and other data we have indicates that commanders appear to be providing good support, but others in the command and supervisory chain may not have the skills and knowledge to do the same.
(inaudible) of the Defense Manpower Data Center also conducted nearly focus groups at 10 installations to capture information that is more qualitative in nature. While the themes they captured from these groups may not be generalizable to the entire force, they were heard across all services and the National Guard. This approach lets us provide an impression of what our soldiers, sailors, and airmen and Marines are saying and thinking about sexual assault and the department's efforts to address it.
So here's what they told us. They said they've been trained extensively on the problem and the resources available. Consistent with the other data I presented today, focus group members noted a positive shift in the department's handling of sexual assault and harassment, and this shift is a substantive changing from years past. Again, with few exceptions, focus group participants indicated that their leadership was working hard to encourage an environment of dignity and respect. However, they, too, saw the potential for those making a report to perceive social and professional retaliation for reporting.
Also included in the report, in a separate annex, is a review of the reforms to the military justice system since April 2012. The military justice system has seen substantive change over the last few years. In fact, last year's changes were the most sweeping reforms since the late 1960s.
Victims' rights and legal protections have been substantively expanded, while commanders' discretion over sexual assault cases has been limited, with decision-making authority having been pushed to higher, more experienced levels of command. These and other reforms are currently underway.
The department is also reviewing the response system panel's 132 recommendations to further improve sexual assault prevention and response, and the judicial proceedings panel is studying, among other things, the reforms that have already been implemented.
Next year, the military justice review group will be producing a review and make recommendations to further amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice. However, their focus will be the Uniform Code of Military Justice in general, and it is not specific to sexual assault.
As the secretary announced, he is announcing further actions to address some of the findings in the report. And the first two listed here specifically address retaliation. We firmly believe that we've got an obligation to ensure that victims of sexual assault can report the crime without concern of retaliation from their peers or anyone else.
Therefore, the secretary is directing action to have military commanders specifically ask about and follow up on experiences of retaliation when they chair the monthly case management group that reviews an installation's response to all reports of sexual assault. Commanders will be asking about retaliation against victims or first responders and then referring these experiences for investigation, if appropriate to do so.
Second, as indicated by our data, most unit commanders receive fairly high marks in their support of victims and their efforts to provide a climate of dignity and respect. However, this does not appear to hold for the other individuals down for this -- down the chain.
So, for this reason, the secretary is directing improved training for military first-line supervisors and those civilians that supervise military members. As we found with new commanders, the skills and knowledge that allow someone to effectively promote a healthy climate and prevent retaliation must be acquired and practiced. First-line supervisors are the ones most likely to see unacceptable behaviors when they occur and take quick corrective action.
Third, the secretary is directing a study that will allow us to better assess and customize and consider local factors that impact sexual assault prevention efforts. Several service efforts indicate that one size does not fit all when it comes to prevention. What works at a large Army base in a metropolitan area may not necessarily work at a small Air Force base in a more remote rural area. This study will help us identify concrete examples of what things military communities can do to further prevent sexual assault.
And then, finally, feedback from our focus group sessions indicated that our troops may benefit from hearing about the progress we're making in sexual assault prevention and response. So this final directive will require the service to provide feedback directly to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in an interactive way.
In summary, the department's report documents substantive and comprehensive progress since 2012, progress we do think was ignited by senior leading engagement, a commitment to transparency, and collaboration with experts, members of Congress, and other federal partners.
However, no one here is declaring success. You just heard that from the secretary, and I'll reiterate it. We have much more work to do. However, any decrease in prevalence indicates that there are fewer victims of this horrible crime, and I think we all would agree that is a step in the right direction.
We will continue to monitor and publicize our progress. We are not satisfied and recognize that future progress will be defined by continued decreases in prevalence of sexual assault. It is our intention to continue prevention work as broadly and as creatively as possible so as to reach our goal of eliminating sexual assault from the military.
Our focus is truly on reinforcing a climate where sexual assault is seen as acceptable, not just because it's illegal, but because it is counter to our core values.
At this point, I'll be joined by the department's highly qualified expert, Dr. Nate Galbreath, who I'm very fortunate to have as my partner in this effort. And we'll be happy to take your questions. Lolita?
Q: Two things. One, on the retaliation, you've all addressed that quite a bit, but, obviously, last year's 50 percent spike, do you think that played any role in the fact that there was a lot of retaliation and that there was only a -- there was a smaller increase this year, the 8 percent? Do you think that the retaliation issue tamped down reporting to some degree over time?
And how do you address that with -- these are officers, obviously, it sounds like, who are -- who people are claiming are retaliation, even if they're first line. Are they -- do you add training? How do you get to those first-line people that you haven't yet done? And I sort of have a follow-up on the prosecution.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Okay. Let me take a stab at it, and I'll let Dr. Galbreath weigh in. You said something, though, that's not accurate, per se. So, last year, you are correct, we had a 50 percent increase in reports. The challenge last week -- last year was then when we reported that, unfortunately, we did not have a prevalence survey and we didn't have the feedback from that, that it specifically addresses retaliation. So it's difficult to know and link the two, okay?
So when we talk that the department has made -- not made progress, we're talking about not making progress from the retaliation rate that was found by the WGR report in 2012 compared to 2014. And with regard to officers, when we say first-line supervisors, you're right, we're talking junior officers, but we're also talking about junior noncommissioned officers. Those that are in most direct or direct supervision of the demographic that is most at risk which is, of course, is that 18- to 21-year-olds.
Dr. Galbreath, anything you want to add to that?
DR. NATHAN GALBREATH: No, sir.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Okay. Next? I'm sorry, you said you had a part two and then (off mic)
Q: Part two is on -- and correct me if I'm wrong, because there were a lot of numbers floating about there.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Yep.
Q: But it sounded to me like the sort of prosecution aspect seemed a little flat from last year to this year. You said like 73 percent or so, there was some action taken, and that that number didn't sound like that number actually was all that different, but I wasn't sure. And then also the court martial number seemed to go down.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Right.
Q: Right? So why do you think that end of things didn't go up?
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Well, let me just say this. I mean, this is -- that's why I made the point -- and I talked specifically evidence-based. So this is -- this is one of those -- one of those metrics where we report it, but that's what the evidence presents. So the fact that it happened to be the same last year and this year, we just see that as the facts as they came to us.
The second thing with regard to the court martial, you're right. There has been a trend in referring -- put up there slide eight, if you can, Kristal. But what you're showing is, if you look at this, what it shows is that, when the documentary came out, "An Invisible War," it shows that there was probably some truth in that, given the -- you know, given the evidence that was presented.
But obviously we have come a long way from 2009 forward. Just because there's been a slight decrease, that is what the evidence shows for 2014. Again, once again, we don't see that as a bad thing. We just see that as what the evidence provided us. Anything you want to add to that?
DR. GALBREATH: I would just offer that even though the percentage was the same, the actual numbers increased. And that's what's along the bottom line there. I actually show you the number of military offenders that were considered by commanders in each of those years. And you'll notice that there's almost a 300 increase there.
Q: I guess I asked because, as you know, that was one of the issues that Congress has been deeply concerned about. And so does this sort of add fuel to the fire for changes in some of the commanders' authorities and all that? Because we don't see -- because we do see sort of a drop in that number.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Yes, but I think that Dr. Galbreath's point about, yeah, you know, a drop in percentage, but it's actually an increase in number.
I'm going to over here first.
Q: (off mic) quick questions to ask.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Sure.
Q: You mentioned that the retaliation was one of the 12 metrics, one of the two -- you know, one of the two total that was not increased. What was the other one?
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Yeah, no, thank you. I'm glad you asked that. And I don't know that you have slides. If not, I'll make sure you get these slides. But, Kristal, could you go to the first slide in the backup?
The answer to your question is investigation length, okay?
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Investigation length. So, yes, any time a -- this crime is reported, it is referred to a military criminal investigative organization, it must be investigated. And what we found is that the investigation length increased from four months to 4.7 months.
As we really looked at this, you'll note when you actually look at the slide, we -- that's not -- we didn't claim that as progress, but we didn't say that not progress, either. And I'll tell you why.
Reporting has increased dramatically. And what we've noticed in a number of these reports are from reports that are happening not just in the past year, but years prior to that. So the fact it's taking us longer to investigate them, we don't think that's a bad thing. And then -- and upon reflection, although we list it as a metric, we probably should have made it a nonmetric. It is what it is. Okay?
Q: (off mic) also on this, I had a question about -- you mentioned that military commanders' discretion over sexual assault cases were limited and their decision-making authority has been limited. Can you give us more specifics? How are they limited? What are the changes exactly?
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Do you want to address that one?
DR. GALBREATH: Sure, absolutely. One of the things that Secretary Panetta did in 2012 is he elevated the initial disposition authority to 06 level officers, captains in the Navy and colonels in the Army and the Air Force, that had special court martial convening authority.
So, basically, what that meant is, one of the concerns was is, when an offender, when a commander gets a report of investigation and has to decide what to do, what if that commander knows this person that's been accused and they're under their command?
Well, what the concern was, is that maybe those decisions aren't as -- as independent as they should be. And so what Secretary Panetta directed was to elevate that decision up out of that unit and to a much higher level in the chain so that it hit a more seasoned, experienced officer who was removed from all the parties involved to be able to give the initial decision on, what are we going to do with this case? Is it going to go to court martial, non-judicial punishment, things like that?
In addition to that, there have been a number of things, changes to Article 60, which addresses clemency, so the ability of a commander to set aside a verdict after a finding of guilt has been almost all but taken away. And there are a number of reforms that I would refer you to -- to the judge advocates that could go into more detail. But those are two of the most significant ones.
Q: And so my final one now with the clemency, have you seen a change in the number of cases that get overthrown? Because for a victim, that's probably the worst thing, to get a conviction and then to see another officer overthrow that. Have you seen significant differences in the number of cases?
DR. GALBREATH: Well, I haven't seen any. There haven't -- the last one that we are aware of was the Wilkinson case.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Yeah, so if I could just conclude on that, so I'm glad you asked the question, because, you know, there was an article in the New York Times that wrote extensively about this. And what I'd highlight for you in that comment that Dr. Galbreath just weighs in, our system has changed so fundamentally that what happened in that particular case that's received a lot of publicity for all of the right reasons, but that can't happen, OK? And so that's why we say we've not had any evidence; it just hasn't happened.
Q: Can you talk about the sex offenders themselves? As you know, we've been reporting on how hundreds of them after they get out of the military brig end up falling off the radar, not (inaudible) to any public sex offender registry. And the inspector general of DOD talked about in August how right now the military's inability to register sex offenders while they're still in confinement helps these offenders evade registration. So the question is -- is -- there's a push on the Hill to change that. Where does the Pentagon stand on this issue?
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Hmm. I think that's one that I'm going to have to take. I don't -- anything?
DR. GALBREATH: That's not our -- this is not in our... (Laughter.)
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Yeah, I was just going to say, that is one probably better left to someone else, and probably the I.G. or maybe OGC within the department. But I don't have a good...
Q: ... not come to your attention yet?
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: No, it has not. I knew -- I knew -- I have seen an extract of what you are describing. But I will tell you, that is not one that I am well versed in.
Q: Should the Pentagon -- I mean, if this is the office, essentially, that is in charge of looking at sexual assault prevention and response...
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Yeah.
Q: ... should there be an aspect of prevention and response of further sexual assaults in the civilian community, as well, that comes under your leadership?
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: I think that -- I mean, I think we have a relationship, and we work very closely. This has just not been one that, again, in my experience over the course of last year, that we've had that. But in light of your question, we'll obviously take a hard look at that, so thank you.
Q: Hi, general. I wanted to ask about the screening of troops in positions of trust that Secretary Hagel has ordered or had ordered.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Yes.
Q: As you know, the Army disqualified 588 soldiers. I'm wondering if that screening is ongoing, and how many troops have been disqualified from those positions, and how many have been discharged from service.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: You know, Tom, I can tell you the answer to the question "Is screening ongoing?" is yes. And in the wake of that the analysis, we're working to kind of take that to the next level and automate some of -- some of that. As to the specific -- your specific question, I'd have to defer to the Army on what their latest numbers are. I'm sorry, I just -- I just don't have that. Yes?
Q: I want to ask you a question on the retaliation.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Yeah.
Q: In the report today, it indicates that the percentage of people in the survey who indicated that they perceived some form of retaliation has remained unchanged between 2012 and 2014.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Right.
Q: One, first of all, what is the mechanism for someone who feels retaliated to complain about that retaliation? And, second, is there any data indicating that the Department of Defense has prosecuted or investigated these claims of retaliation?
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Well, let me take the first one, and I'll turn it over to you for the second one.
You know, retaliation is such a tough issue. I mean, we would hope that, if an individual was willing to come forward and report that they'd been retaliated on it, that they would tell someone, whether it's in the chain of command or outside the chain of command.
I could tell you if it were to come to the leadership attention, then it would be investigated and followed up. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of statistics yet that tell us what, in fact, has been referred to investigation. And we hope to have more evidence of that as part of the annual report.
Anything you want to add to that?
DR. GALBREATH: As an Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent for 12 years in my military career, I followed up on any report of retaliation, because that was witness intimidation. That's something that I definitely wanted to get after and hold people appropriately accountable.
That being said, a new tool that Congress gave us is making retaliation an actual violation under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I don't have data on that yet, as far as the numbers go. Our process this year for meeting the president's guidelines -- or deadline was to shrink a five-month process to about 30 days. So all of the quality and wealth of data that I usually have for an annual report I just don't have yet, but it will be coming this spring when we report to Congress.
Q: So you're actually collecting data on people who are reporting retaliation?
DR. GALBREATH: We've had people ask, and I'm going to reach out and collect that data, yes.
Q: (off mic) I wanted to ask a question about rape and penetrating crimes and the way that RAND looked at the data as opposed to the way the military did. It appears that RAND found that the number of assaults, sexual assaults on women in 2014 that involved penetration was 35 percent versus 29 percent based on the way the military has looked at the data. Are you familiar with this? Is this...
DR. GALBREATH: Intimately familiar.
Q: Yeah, right. And for men, its worse, 35 percent RAND found, 11 percent the military found. Does this show that rape is a much more -- the worst form of sexual assault is a much more -- much more problematic than you had initially thought?
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: So here's what I'm going to say. The answer is no, but I am going to have Dr. Galbreath -- I mean, there's two things. Number one, I would say RAND, 15 minutes after this, is going to separately have a briefing. They'll walk you through that. And I would encourage you to do that, because it's really going to lay out for you those differences and why.
I really want you to have that, because those that just look at those numbers but don't hear the briefing kind of come to the conclusion you did, and it's not the right conclusion. So...
DR. GALBREATH: And all I would say is, as far as penetrating crime goes, you know that in our surveys we don't try to classify what kind of crime under Article 120 UMCJ people experience. That's why we have the broad category of penetrating versus non-penetrating crime.
And what RAND will show you is their methodology and how they might be tapping into some of the crimes that people have experienced, but maybe didn't necessarily think that they were sexual. And because under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 120, the behavior that you experience doesn't necessarily have to be sexual. And that might be tapping into hazing and things like that, like the secretary said.
STAFF: We have time for one more.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Yes.
Q: Have you looked into the demographics of the offenders, who they are, what their service histories have been, if they have had post-traumatic stress disorder, if they have been in Iraq and Afghanistan? Have you broken that down? If, let's say, there's not a big problem in the Air Force, but there is a big problem in the Marine Corps, is that included in the report?
DR. GALBREATH: That is not included in the report. I can tell you that, for the most part, our demographics -- our offenders are about 18 to 35 years old. They are in enlisted ranks of anywhere -- most of them grouped between E-2 and about E-7 or -8. But most of them in that main spot of about E-4 to E-5, E-6.
We don't have -- we're currently conducting some research right now that will give us a better insight as to service history and where these folks come from and what they've been doing, but I don't have that yet.
MAJ. GEN. SNOW: Okay. Hey, thank you very much. I appreciate your interest in this matter.