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Press Briefing on the Findings of the FY21 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military

STAFF:  All right, good afternoon.  Thank you for joining us for today's event.

Ms. Beth Foster, the Executive Director for Force Resiliency, will be giving some opening remarks ahead of our question-and-answer period.  She, along with her staff, will provide you with an overview of the data and findings from the Fiscal Year '21 Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, followed by time for questions and answers.

Just a reminder:  When we begin the question-and-answer portion, to please limit yourself to one question, one follow-up, and please limit your scope of questions to the report and the independent review committee findings.  I will let you know when we are getting towards the end of time.

And Ms. Foster, over to you.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ELIZABETH FOSTER:  Great.  All right, well, good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you so much for joining us.

Today, the department will release the F.Y. 2021 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.  I'm joined today by Dr. Nate Galbreath, acting director of DOD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, Dr. Ashlea Klahr, director of health and resilience research at the Office of People Analytics and Dr. Andra Tharp, director of DOD's Violence Prevention Cell.

Sadly, the F.Y. 2021 report shows a significant increase in sexual assault prevalence, which is our estimate of the number of women and men that experience sexual assault in the military.  The results are a tragic reminder of the challenges we face and the absolute need for continued leadership, engagement, historic reforms that remain underway and a focus on the latest in prevention so we can achieve the foundational change we need.

While there are some complexities in the data this year that Dr. Klahr will go over in just a minute, our numbers indicate that this is the highest sexual assault estimated prevalence rate for women since the department started measuring sexual assault prevalence in 2006.  This year is the second-highest prevalence rate for men.  The highest was in 2006.

These numbers are tragic and extremely disappointing.  On an individual level, it is devastating to conceptualize that these numbers mean that over 35,000 service members' lives and careers were irrevocably changed by these crimes.  These events not only have an impact at an individual level, but they also degrade our readiness and ability for the department to conduct our mission.  Every incident has a ripple effect across the unit and impacts unit cohesion, ability to trust and distracts from the critical mission at hand.

Like many of us in this room, I know women who have personally experienced sexual assault and harassment.  I have seen the devastating impact this can have on a person's life.  I have made it a goal of my work to give a voice to those who need us to stand at their side.  It is with that same spirit and mission that I took this job last year, and it is these servicewomen and -men that I think about and fight for every day.  And while these numbers are disappointing, we can change this trajectory.  The department is currently undertaking unprecedented cultural and organizational change to directly address sexual assault in the military.

Critically, Secretary Austin did not wait for the results of this survey to take action.  He has made addressing sexual assault a priority since his first day on the job.  In addition to announcing a number of immediate actions, Secretary Austin launched the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, or the IRC, as we call it, to take an independent look at where the department was falling short and what changes were necessary to prevent and respond to these crimes.  The IRC's report detailed many of the same challenges that you'll hear about today, and on September 22, 2021, Secretary Austin ordered implementation of all 82 IRC recommendations wherever possible.

As you'll hear today, the findings of this report reinforce the need for the IRC reforms that the department is currently implementing.  We have the way forward, but we must double down on our implementation efforts.  This report is a look at incidents that occurred in calendar year 2021, and largely reflects the climate before the department commenced implementation of these significant reforms.  This gives us a new baseline against which to measure progress.

Today, Secretary Austin released a memo to the department with the call to action to redouble our efforts to address sexual assault in the military.  This includes fielding a new full-time and specialized prevention workforce to get to the left of these incidents and stop these crimes before they occur. It includes implementing the most significant change to the military justice system in decades by readying the Offices of Special Trial Counsel to take over prosecutorial decisions and restore service member trust to the military justice process.  It also includes professionalizing the sexual assault response workforce to provide them with enhanced skills and independence required to better assist victim recovery.

Yesterday, Secretary Austin met again with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the deputy secretary and the service secretaries and chiefs to discuss continued progress of IRC implementation and the need for all department leaders to continue to stay focused on our efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military.  This level of commitment from our department's most senior leaders is essential to assuring continued progress.

The department clearly and powerfully heard from our service members during the Fort Hood Independent Review Commission, Secretary Austin's IRC and our on-site installation evaluation effort that action and change are needed.  The voices reflected in this report reinforce that message, and the department is answering that call for change.  Secretary Austin has called on leaders across the department and up and down the chain of command to lead.  We all have a stake in this process, and it is only with our shared commitment across the department that we can work to eliminate sexual assault from our ranks.  We owe nothing less to our service members.

With that, I'm going to turn it over to Dr. Galbreath, who's going to walk through the details of the report.

ACTING DIRECTOR NATHAN GALBREATH:  Good afternoon.

This report has been required by Congress since about 2004, and we've been coming to you with this data since that time.  The report includes prevalence and reporting data, as well as military justice case outcomes and a variety of other things, including reports from each of the military services and the department.

I just wanted to remind everybody that when we talk about sexual assault we're talking about a range of crimes, and that includes penetrative crimes like rape, and also sexual contact crimes like groping or abusive sexual contact, as well as attempts to commit these crimes.

So to also remind you, the department also uses two primary metrics to measure progress in this space.  First of all, that's the past year prevalence of sexual assault.  This year we're going to be talking to you about unwanted sexual contact, and that is the estimated number of service members who have indicated on a scientific survey an incident in the past year.  The desired state for that is to see that decrease over time, in other words, fewer people experiencing a sexual assault incident.

The other primary metric that we use is the number of reports that we receive, and these are reports, restricted or unrestricted, made to sexual assault response coordinators, victim advocates or military criminal investigative organizations, and the goal of that metric is to see that increase over time, because with greater reporting we're able to provide a greater number of individuals restorative care and get them back on the road to recovery, as well as have the opportunity to hold offenders appropriately accountable.

So this year, we're coming to you a little bit late.  Normally, our report comes out at the end of April, beginning of May, and we're able to give you this information earlier on in the year.  However, this year, as we were going to field our survey, the Office of Management and Budget changed their survey licensing procedures for the federal government.

OMB does this under the auspices of the Federal Paperwork Reduction Act, and essentially, it ensures that surveys issued by the department and other federal agencies are not too burdensome to the respondents, and that's in the idea to get more people to respond and participate in the results.

This change in procedure delayed our survey getting out into the field and then also delayed our ability to bring the report, and so that's why we're here today in September instead of May.

So with that being said, today with us is also Dr. Ashlea Klahr from the Office of People Analytics and also Dr. Andra Tharp, who is the department's Senior Violence Prevention Advisor.  So we're going to hear from both of them and then I'll wrap up with some prevalence and reporting trend data and military justice data for you.

So Dr. Klahr?

DR. ASHLEA KLAHR:  Thank you.  Good afternoon.  I'm going to walk you through the results of the survey that we conducted.

So on the slide that you can see in front and up here on the screen, these are showing our survey-generated prevalence estimates going back to 2006, when the department first started doing this in a systematic way.

So these numbers represent the percentage of women and the percentage of men that we estimate experienced a sexual assault or an unwanted sexual contact event in the past year.  And as Ms. Foster mentioned, the prevalence estimate that we obtained for women for 2021, that 8.4 percent, is the highest prevalence estimate that we've measured to date.  That 1.5 percent of men is approaching our highest, although prevalence was a bit higher in 2006.

Now, an important thing to know about these numbers is that these are actually not apples to apples comparisons.  The department has used three different metrics over time to measure prevalence.  Between 2006 and 2012, we used a single survey question to estimate prevalence.

In 2014, at the direction of Congress, RAND conducted the survey and designed a new metric for estimating prevalence.  That RAND metric was intended to align as closely as possible with the UCMJ criteria and definitions for sexual assault.

And so as a result, it's a longer metric, it's quite detailed in places, and this is a metric that, when we took our survey for the OMB license and review process for the first time, it's a metric that OMB had a lot of questions about.

They were very focused on burden in that review and they thought that the metric was unduly burdensome.  In fact, it is a metric that we have heard from the field about in the past, those same sorts of concerns about the nature of the metric being long and potentially burdensome.

So working with OMB, we arrived at the metric that we used in 2021.  This metric is our five item or five question unwanted sexual contact metric.  This is a metric the department is already very familiar with because it's the metric that we use at the service academies.

So on the service academy gender relations survey, we've never used the RAND metric.  The service academy survey is done in person.  Cadets and midshipmen sit in a room together to take the survey.  And so when we tested out the RAND metric there, because of how long and detailed it is, it didn't work well in that setting.

So at that time, the department designed this five question metric that really bridges the gap between what we were doing in the beginning in 2006 and what RAND set out to do with their metric.  It's not as long and detailed as the RAND metric but it does provide us more granularity than the metric that was used in 2006.

So that's a lot of details about survey metrics but all that to say that the metric that we have in '21 is providing us good, reliable information, and it's the metric that we'll be using moving forward.  The downside this year is that we're not able to make statistical comparisons with what we measured in 2018.

So I won't be telling you whether or not this difference is statistically significant because it wouldn't be appropriate to do that kind of test, but when we look at those numbers on their face, certainly we can see that that number appears to be higher.  And this is a good estimate of the number of service members who experienced some type of behavior in this unwanted sexual contact bucket that is certainly counter to good order and discipline.

So turning to the next slide, what we're showing you here is every year that we have a prevalence estimate, we translate that percentage into an estimated number of victims.  So for 2021, we're estimating that 35,875 active duty members experienced an unwanted sexual contact in 2021.

On the survey, we also ask for individuals who experienced something whether or not they made a report, either restricted or unrestricted, and we can use that information to estimate a reporting rate using only the survey data.

This is helpful because we can compare this information to the actual number of reports that came in the door.  And as in prior years, we see that our survey estimates are in line with the actual reporting that came in the door, which is a good sanity check that our survey is giving us good, reliable information about what's going on.

At the bottom portion of the slide, we're showing you those prevalence estimates by service, and as you can see, this apparent increase was observed across the board for women and men across all the services.  We saw the highest prevalence rates for women in the Marine Corps and for men in the Navy, and this is consistent with what we've seen in prior years.

All of the data that we're showing you now is focused on the active component, but in 2021, for the first time, we surveyed the active component and the reserve component simultaneously, and you will find the data for the reserve component is also contained within the report.

I can tell you that we saw this apparent increase in prevalence.  This was also observed in the reserve component.  But we do see that prevalence is lower in the reserve component than it is in the active component, and this is also consistent with what we've seen in prior years.

If you turn to the next slide, on the survey for individuals who experienced an unwanted sexual contact and made a report, we asked them about the resources that they may have interacted with and whether or not they were satisfied with those resources.

What we saw in 2021 was that victims' satisfaction with resources appeared to decline from where it was in 2018.  This was generally the case across the board for the resources that we asked about and it was also the case for those resources that victims are generally the most satisfied with.

So these resources are our sexual assault response coordinators, or SARCs, our victim advocates, or VAs, and our Special Victims Counsel and Victims Legal Counsel.  As in prior years, these were the resources that victims were most satisfied with but we did see a decline in satisfaction with these resources between 2018 and 2021.

We had a different survey in 2021 that gives us some clues about what might be driving this decline in satisfaction.  So in a survey of the sexual assault response professional workforce, we collected information about various aspects of these individuals' work life and their ability to do their jobs, and what we saw in that survey was signs of increased stress and strain on the response workforce.  And that's what you see at the bottom portion of this slide.

So we saw increases in burnout and increases in compassion fatigue, for example.  In the comments, these individuals wrote a lot about the impacts of COVID on their ability to do their job and some of the challenges in trying to connect with victims virtually versus in person.  So we think this might be some of what's driving this decline in satisfaction.

I'll note that there are a number of recommendations coming out of the Independent Review Commission that will directly -- are intended to address some of these challenges that we're seeing in the response workforce.

Turning to the next slide, this is a metric that we've been asking consistently going back to 2010.  And the questions have been unchanged over this time period.  This is a hypothetical question asked on the survey of everyone.  It asks:  If you were to be assaulted, would you trust the system?  And what we saw in 2021 was a stark decline in perceptions of trust from where they had been in 2018, and indeed in prior years.  Just in general, it is unusual to see changes of this magnitude in a survey metric that had historically been so stable over time.

However, we do note that this mirrors other changes that we see in other survey metrics.  For example, in the American public overall, trust and confidence in institutions is declining.  We also see declining retention intentions and declining confidence in potential recruits and in their influencers in terms of whether or not the military is doing a good job addressing sexual assault in the institution.  So in-line with what we saw in the previous slide, there are also a number of IRC recommendations that are intended to rebuild trust, recommendations that impact the military justice system as well as the response system.

So turning to the next slide -- this is the last slide of survey data that I have for you.  So this slide summarizes the association between unhealthy climate and risk for unwanted sexual contact.  On the left-hand side of the slide we're showing you, based on the survey, the percentage of women and the percentage of men who experienced an unhealthy climate in each of these domains.  For example, we saw that 29 percent of women in 2021 experienced sexual harassment.  And this was a statistically significant increase from the 24 percent who experienced sexual harassment in 2018.

We also saw a number of other indications of climate moving in a more unhealthy direction between 2018 and 2021.  In the top middle portion of the slide, these are the odds of experiencing an unwanted sexual contact for everyone across the board, regardless of climate.  This is just taking that prevalence estimate and translating it into an odds ratio.  So we have one in 12 women and one in 67 men who experienced an unwanted sexual contact event in 2021.  On the right-hand side of the slide, we're showing you what happens to those odds in the presence of an unhealthy climate.

So for women who have experienced sexual harassment, one in four of those women also experienced unwanted sexual contact.  For men who experienced sexual harassment, one in six also experienced unwanted sexual contact.  So you can see the dramatic impact on the odds that these unhealthy climates have in terms of the likelihood of having experienced unwanted sexual contact.

This really builds on, at this point, a very large body of evidence that we have within the department as well as outside of the department that these climate factors are really robust risk indicators that are contributing to some of the risk for unwanted sexual contact and really to the importance of prevention in this space.

So to talk more about that, I'm going to turn it to my colleague, Dr. Andra Tharp.

DR. ANDRA THARP:  Good afternoon.

So as we've discussed, there are a number of recommendations from the Independent Review Commission that focus on leadership development, and establishing a full-time prevention workforce, and enhancing command climate assessments.  And when we talk about prevention, what were referring to is stopping a violent act before it occurs, either by increasing those conditions or factors that protect against that violence from occurring or decreasing those conditions or factors that increase the risk for the violence occurring.

This is different from an awareness-based prevention that has been part of the department's advocacy work for the past two decades.  Awareness-based prevention is critical for making the military community aware of the problem and building solidarity for those who are affected but it's not enough to move the needle on stopping these behaviors from happening in the first place.  So research has been rapidly evolving and we now have multiple tools that we can leverage for this work.

These findings that are presented highlight the climate factors that we're targeting through these prevention efforts and underscore the need to implement the recommendations of the Independent Review Commission.

But they also reinforce findings from other efforts that we've conducted over the past year.  So for example, when we conducted the on-site installation evaluations, we learned that it wasn't sufficient to just provide leaders with data on their climate, they actually needed prevention experts on their staff to help them interpret those findings, to collaborate with other stakeholders, to advise them on research-based solutions and then implement those solutions well.

And for that reason, we have been sprinting over the past several months to implement the IRC recommendation to establish the full-time, dedicated, specialized professional workforce.  We have developed strategy and policy, we are doing targeted outreach to ensure we get the right talent in these critical positions, and over the past several months, the department has initiated hiring the first 400 of these prevention professionals and will continue hiring over 2,000 in the coming years.

So these findings are extremely concerning but we have accelerated our work on these workforce and leadership recommendations to address the unhealthy climates that are contributing to unhealthy, unwanted sexual contact.

And with that, I will turn it over to Dr. Galbreath to talk about reporting.

DR. GALBREATH:  Next slide please.

So we've been coming to you for several years, trying to demonstrate our progress with regard to decreasing prevalence of sexual assault and increasing reporting.  And up on the slide that you see here is that track record.

And we are the only jurisdiction in the country that comes to you regularly with an estimate of how often sexual assault occurred and how often sexual assault was reported, and that's what I'm showing to you here.  So to really take a closer look, some of the diamonds across the top of this slide here that are in different colors are our prevalence estimates, and the different color reflects the different metric that we used that Dr. Klahr described.

Unfortunately, on the far right side, when you see that purple diamond at the top with the whiskers up and down, that is our prevalence estimate for this year, and those whiskers are our confidence interval or our margins of error with regard to survey data.

And sadly, this is a new high water mark for the department.  You'll notice that our starting out estimate was represented by that dotted blue line back in 2006, where we estimated about 34,000 service members experienced some kind of sexual assault in the past year.

Across the bottom of the slide are the number of actual restricted and unrestricted reports that we've received in the years noted.  That's that red line with the boxes.  And while we received the highest number of reports this year, because prevalence increased so much, those numbers of reports actually represents a smaller portion of the military reporting their crime.

So for example, this year note that only about 20 percent, or one in five, service members impacted by sexual assault reported their crime, and that's down from what you see in 2016 and 2018, when we estimated that one in three, or 30 percent, were reporting their crime.

So we have a lot of work to do and a lot of the IRC recommendations that we have are going directly towards this, to increase prevalence, increase reporting, and decrease prevalence through prevention.

To wrap up today -- next slide please -- I'm going to just give you a thumbnail sketch of some of the trends that we're seeing in the military justice outcomes.  Every year, we report you the number of criminal investigations initiated as a result of an unrestricted report of sexual assault.

And this year, I'll just give you, like I said, a thumbnail sketch of what you see on this slide.  So on the left-hand side of the slide, represented by that top green line are the percentage of cases in which commanders were able to take some kind of disciplinary action because they had sufficient evidence of a crime and jurisdiction to do so.

And you'll note that the trend in there is relatively flat, but what has changed over time is how commanders have disposed of these cases, and that's what's represented on the right-hand side of the slide.  So the red line that you see that's been going down over time is the percentage of cases that commanders have preferred to court martial.

Going across the bottom of the slide, the red -- excuse me, the blue and the green lines represent non-judicial punishments and administrative actions and discharges, respectively.  And essentially, what I can tell you about the change over time is that in speaking with our Special Victim Counsel, those attorneys that represent victims throughout the military justice process, they've told us that victims would rather participate in disciplinary actions that don't require them to testify in open court, and largely because they're concerned about having their morals and their judgment questioned in a public forum.

Rather, our Special Victim Counsel have been able to advice victims about all of the different options available to them to support disciplinary action against their alleged offender, and they have opted to use these non-judicial punishment and discipline and administrative actions and discharges as a way to support action, discipline being taken against the alleged offender but yet not having to experience a traumatic experience in court.

So overall, what I can tell you is that this really sets up a high bar for the Office of Special Trial Counsel that will be taking over adjudication and prosecution of these cases in December of 2023, per the IRC's recommendation and requirements set by Congress.

Overall, the Special Trial Counsel have to convince victims that court martial participation is a viable outcome and they'll be supported throughout the full process.

So with that being said, we would be happy to take any questions that you all have.

STAFF:  Thank you.

We will open it up on the phone line with Lita Baldor from Associated Press.  Lita?

Q:  I wanted to get back to the prevention issue, and there's a lot of discussion about 2,400  personnel over time.  And I think it was Dr. Tharp had started to talk a little bit about some of the specifics.  But can you be a little bit more specific about where you are in these specific hirings -- how many actually have been hired?  You sort of mentioned in the process.  There's like 400, but how many have been hired?  And what specifically -- can you kind of dumb it down a little bit?  What are they doing?  I didn't really understand what some of these people are doing.  So how many have been hired?  Over what time will you get those full 2,400, or whatever?  And give us a better idea of what they're doing.

MS. FOSTER:  Thank you so much, Lita.  I had a little trouble hearing the first part of your question, but I think I got it, and correct me if I'm off track.  So I'll take a first stab at it, and then pass it over to Dr. Tharp to talk in some more detail.

So in terms of our prevention workforce, as you said, we're aiming to have over 2,000 of these personnel placed at installations all over the world, and what the department has been working on in the past year is developing the infrastructure and the policy that is going to support this workforce.

One of our critical lessons learned from, you know, early on in the sexual assault mission space work is you don't want to implement a new workforce without building an infrastructure and a model that is going to support them.  So we need to determine things like where are these folks going?  How are we phasing them in?  What training are they receiving?  What is their education and continuing education going to look like?  How is this going to be structured?  Because this is a brand-new workforce.  Nothing like this has existed at the department before.  So that's what we've been focused on in the initial months, and then recently, the department has really, as Dr. Tharp indicated, worked to accelerate our hiring actions in this space.

In terms of the number of specific personnel that have been on-boarded, I'm going to have to refer you to the military departments to speak in more specific terms.  I know that there's a lot of urgent activity happening in this space, and the numbers, I think, seem to change sort of day by day based on the hiring actions.

But what I'll say is that's been a challenge for us.  I mean, it is difficult in the labor environment in this country right now to hire specialized personnel.  But as Dr. Tharp indicated, we're putting a number of different measures in place at the department to accelerate that hiring.  So we're putting together a recruitment plan so we can target these folks at colleges and universities and get them excited about this work.  We're working with our MSO/VSO community and talking to them about engaging their, you know, military spouse and veteran population and bringing them into this workforce.

Dr. Tharp, do you want to speak a little bit more about what they're going to be doing on the ground?

DR. THARP:  Sure, absolutely.

So one of the first part of that recommendation for the IRC was for the department to establish a model in terms of what this prevention workforce would look like, and that model was approved by the under secretary in June of this year.  And we worked with Library of Congress actually starting last summer to really lean into this effort to develop this model.  And we leveraged research that showed us what it takes for an organization to do prevention well, and there's a lot of research that informed this.  And essentially, there is a three-level model that we modeled in terms of specific roles and responsibilities at different echelons within the organization, and what those folks would do, the kinds of education and experience they would want to have and what kind of training and education they would need.

So just as an example at the strategic level, you need folks that can translate research into policy and make sense of the department's data, and really use that to drive action at the local level.

At the more local tactical level, these are individuals who are really taking a community-based approach and looking at, what are those contributing factors across the range of harmful behaviors?  So this workforce addresses not only sexual assault, but also harassment, suicide, domestic abuse and child abuse.  So these individuals will be looking for these very climate factors that we talked about.  Because in one community, it might be sexual harassment; in another community, it might be workplace hostility.  And the specific approach that you would apply might look different in those two situations, so these individuals will really understand where the risk is, and then advise leaders on research-based, evidence-based approaches that they can use to get after it, and then work across the different prevention stakeholders to implement it, but then also evaluate to ensure that what we're doing is actually having the intended effect, and so that we can course-correct if we need to.

STAFF:  Okay, in the room.

Q:  Hi.  Heather Mongilio with USNI News.

So understand that this affects both men and women, but focusing on women, given the recruiting climate right now and the focus on retention, why should women join the military when the sexual assault problem seems like it has no end in sight?

MS. FOSTER:  Yeah, absolutely.  So I appreciate that question, and that's something we think a lot about.  And what I would say is that the department has recognized that there is a problem here, and they are making and taking action and change to address it.  The department is investing unprecedented resources into solving this problem.  I think that's an important thing to understand, is for folks out there that may be considering this, is you have a department that's taken responsibility and is working to follow the latest science to make a change in this space.

Do you have anything you want to add, Dr. Galbreath?

DR. GALBREATH:  Absolutely, ma'am, and in the National Defense Strategy, it is the intent of the department to become an employer of choice, and we recognize that no one's going to come work for us if the workplace is unhealthy.  And as a result, that's why we're investing the way that we are, and in addition to that, you'll see a number of initiatives throughout not only the Department of Defense, but the federal government itself for women in the workplace and what they bring and why that's important for our diversity and our ability to accomplish the mission.

STAFF:  Meghann?

Q:  So is there anything to be said for accountability as prevention, or accountability as deterrence?  If more cases were prosecuted, if more toxic commanders were -- when they're released were publicized, and the reasons why they were relieved are publicized, if more court-martial results with details about the -- the crimes were posted, do you think that that might have a deterrent effect above and beyond reducing toxic command climates or the awareness of what sexual assault is and why it's wrong?

MS. FOSTER:  Yeah, Meghann, so I'll take a first crack at that and then turn it over to the team to talk more in detail.

What I would say is that transparency is accountability, and that's a lot of what we're doing in this space, is building a data infrastructure that we haven't seen -- or that we haven't had before to look at, you know, where are those risk factors?  Where are we seeing those hotspots around the world that are driving up our risk for sexual assault?  And that's something we haven't had before, and what we do is on a quarterly basis, we come before what's called the Deputy's Workforce Council, which is chaired by the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and we bring forward a quarterly climate report to shine a light on exactly where are we seeing these problems, and ensure that we're taking action, that we're investing resources in giving those folks on the ground the tools that they need to address this.

Now, I think your question is absolutely a good one.  I think we need to consider the impact that command climate has on these issues, and that's something we absolutely need to think about.  But we also need to think about how important it is that our service members feel that they can answer, you know, the DEOCS Survey, which is one of the most significant surveys that kind of measures that command climate, that they feel comfortable responding to that survey, freely and openly.

But what we're trying to do through this process is demonstrate to them that their voices are being heard.  So when they're identifying issues, we're bringing that up to the highest levels of the department, and we're taking action on that.  I'll turn over to Dr. Tharp to talk a little bit more.

DR. THARP:  The only thing I'd add is that we are closing some of the loops around the accountability for command climate assessment.  So there is going to be going forward better tracking for individuals, for leaders to actually take the DEOCS and then to develop action plans as a result of that.  And that will be a responsibility that the prevention workforce supports them in doing.  So we're building in more accountability -- more oversight in terms of our ability to track that.

And then one of the IRC recommendations is also that command climate assessments would be reflected on leaders' performance evaluations to again ensure that visibility.  And, you know, there are a lot of reasons why a leader may have a poor command climate, it may be a reflection of a previous leader.  So certainly, you know, those things will be taken into account.  But it's just increasing our visibility at every level to ensure that we're trying to catch these issues before they reach a fever pitch.

Q:  Right.  But so many of those initiatives are internal and are about making progress that will be incremental.  And what I mean is countering the narrative that is so freely out there about everybody's poor experience either with climate or with the reporting process or the prosecution process.  Is there a place for you guys to push back against that and be like, look, here is -- outside of -- you know, the Army had the Fort Hood report and they very publicly fired people over that.  Is there room to do more of that where you say this -- we recognize that this person is responsible for these -- his climate is responsible for these things that happened in his formations, and we want everybody to know that this is what we do about it?

MS. FOSTER:  I think that you have to look no further to the action that the department is taking to implement the IRC recommendations to demonstrate that.  We have heard loud and clear from our victims that the conditions in the force are unacceptable right now.  And that is why we are making unprecedented resource investments to get after this problem.  And that's what I would say to our service members.  There is leadership commitment to this issue, as I mentioned at the top, from the Secretary of Defense to across-the-board to get after this.  And we are ensuring that those units have the resources and tools that they need to address this problem.

STAFF:  All right.  We'll go to (Barbara) (inaudible).

Q:  I wanted to follow up on (Meghann's) question but I think she's trying -- you're trying to address which is while you're very detailed in talking to us about procedures, plans, policies, et cetera, this is by your own account a very bad report historically and in any way.  Why is -- a couple of questions.  Why is no one held accountable?  Can you just simply tell us?  In any other failure in the U.S. military it is often the case that someone is held accountable.  Why is no one held accountable on this?

Second question, when in the year did you know that this report was going to be this bad?  And when did you tell the secretary and the chairman that this is what they were facing?

And my third question, when you talked about -- a little bit different, you talked about victims wanting -- being more -- wanting to testify more in non-court martial proceedings, that they didn't -- they were anxious about testifying in court martial proceedings.

Could you just clarify some of that, about when a victim -- even if they don't wish to testify, what influence that plays on deciding to go to court martial versus not going to court martial?  Are people not being court martialed because you can't get someone to testify against them?  Just explain that a little bit better.

But please start with the question of accountability.  Why is no one accountable for this?

MS. FOSTER:  Thank you so much, Barbara, for that question.

And what I would say is that I would point to the data that Dr. Galbreath shared on slide seven, which is that folks are held accountable who perpetrate these crimes.

We have a military justice process that needs improvement, and that's why we're establishing the Office of Special Trial Counsel, but folks are held accountable.

Q:  -- cases (inaudible) you're saying -- I think my question more was addressing you have climate problems, you have well understood problems at various bases, at various units, in commands, (inaudible).  Is there any accountability on this as an issue for senior leadership, given the failures you're outlining across the board, non-individual, legal matters?

MS. FOSTER:  Well, I mean, what I would point you to is that the Secretary convened his senior leadership team yesterday and said we need to get after this.  He is holding their feet to the fire and making sure that they get after this problem and they do everything that they can to implement these recommendations and get after this.

I think what I would say is, in terms of an individual, you know, sort of commander accountability, that is more of a question for the military departments.  What we have worked hard to do is to increase the visibility that we have on what's happening out in our force, cause that's historically been a challenge.

We hear anecdotes but we haven't had a data-driven approach to seeing, you know, what's happening all over our force, and that's what we're trying to do.  And so we can draw attention to that, make sure they have the tools that they need to address this, and then take further action if necessary.

Q:  -- did you know it was this bad?

MS. FOSTER:  Yeah, so I'd have to look back at our calendars and emails to get you exact dates but I think we started crunching the numbers from this survey over this summer and I believe we started having conversations with senior leadership end of July, beginning of August.

Q:  And can you just quickly explain on court martial?  I just wasn't clear on that.

DR. GALBREATH:  Absolutely.  So you asked us to -- for a little bit of clarification about when a victim can participate or not?

Q:  No, you had indicated that sometimes -- or many times, victims don't choose to -- do not wish to participate in court martial proceedings, and when they don't want to do that, how does that actually impact prosecuting a case?  Do you have any data that shows how many cases, for example, you may have had to drop or go down to non-judicial punishment because you cannot get a victim who is willing to testify in what otherwise would have been a court martial proceeding?

DR. GALBREATH:  Absolutely, and that data is in the statistical section of our report.  I'd be happy to show it to you.  But bottom line is that we do have a percentage of cases every year that cannot go forward due to the fact that victims no longer want to participate in the justice process.

And when that happens, then it's very unlikely that a case would be prosecuted because it's very difficult for a prosecutor to go forward without the victim as the case.


STAFF:  Sylvie?

Q:  Yes, I would like to follow up on that.  Is there -- are you thinking about maybe changing the system so they could -- you could court martial without them testifying in -- publicly?  Is it possible to do -- (there are ?) way to -- ways to -- when -- for -- for children, for an example, there are -- (the justice ?) can accommodate children.  So why the -- the military justice cannot accommodate the women in that circumstances?

DR. GALBREATH:  So I am a psychologist, I'm not an attorney, but what I can tell you is that there are U.S. constitutional issues about being able to face your accuser in court, and so as a result, when you don't have a victim testify in a public forum, there are constitutional issues there for the defense because they weren't able to cross-examine the individual.

And I would refer to you to the Office of General Counsel to correct my statements overall, but at the end of the day, it's just is next to impossible to prosecute a case without that victim being -- testifying in court.

MS. FOSTER:  And Sylvie, what I'll say -- I think we're going to have someone from Office of General Counsel that'll be part of the next session that may be able to get you a more fulsome answer on that.

STAFF:  All right, we'll go to the phone lines.  Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, are you there?

Q:  Hi.  Thanks for taking my question.

I'm hoping one of you guys could address this slide about trust in the military system.  Across the board, female service members show about a 25 to 30 percent decrease in their trust in the military's ability to protect them, both in terms of their case and their overall safety.  What can this be attributed to?

MS. FOSTER:  I'm going to let Dr. Galbreath talk through that.

DR. GALBREATH:  Over the past year and a half or so, I think -- I don't have to remind you all about the press coverage on sexual assault in the military.  And that really started very focusedly with the Independent Review Commission at Fort Hood and the outcome of the -- the outcomes that we saw there and the real troubles that were present, that resulted in the Private Guillen case.

And I think over time, we've not only seen that but also our own Secretary's Independent Review Commission and the findings that they had, as well as some of the findings that we had with our on-site installation evaluation report that we released this last spring.

Overall, what I think you're seeing is some of that concern about what people are hearing in the military about their justice process reflected back to us in these survey results.  And so as a result, again, the IRC felt very strongly that the Office of Special Trial Counsel's change in taking over prosecution would restore some of that trust in the system, largely because you don't have to rely on your commander anymore to decide to adjudicate your case or not, that there would be a military prosecuting expert that would now be making those decisions and restoring some of that faith.

STAFF:  All right.  Luis, ABC?

Q:  Yeah, hi.  Thank you all (inaudible).  Good afternoon.

You all explained the -- why the increase in -- in the gross numbers for the methodology, the -- the changes in the prevalence from 20,000 to 35,000.  What, in those questions, makes it more easier for service members to say "yes, this happened to me" as opposed to -- I -- I know you labeled it as a little bit cumbersome, I guess -- but, I mean, something must have indicated such a significant rise.  And is this now your new base point?

And the other thing is -- that I've noticed, is that when you look at those charts, you see they start high, and then there's a dip, then they go back up, then there's a dip, and it goes back up, and now we're way higher than we had been the last time.  So what accounts for these dips?  Because when we've talked in those dip years, you -- there's a -- I sense encouragement on your part, that there's progress.  And then it happens and goes up again.  So is this just a cycle, or is there something else that indicates that there is a dip, and maybe there never really was a dip?

MS. FOSTER:  Yeah, so I think -- let me take your question about the dips, and Dr. Galbreath can add some things, and then I think Dr. Klahr is best-equipped to answer the question about methodology.

So you're absolutely right.  We saw significant progress in this space from 2006 to 2016.  But then, of course, in 2018 it went back up, and then this year.  So I think it's difficult to isolate that to one specific cause, and especially because our force is renewing itself constantly, right?  We have new recruits coming in every day, hundreds of thousands every year, and folks leaving the force.  So I think that's part of our particular challenge, is the new nature of our force.

But one of the things that we can look at is, we know that when the department is focused on this issue from the highest levels of leadership, that does translate to some action on the ground, and I think that's why it's critically important that we have our senior-most leaders laser-focused on this issue set.

Dr. Galbreath, do you have anything?

DR. GALBREATH:  I would just underscore what Ms. Foster just said, but I would tell you that having been here for 15 years now working this issue, is the number one thing that impacts our prevalence rates is senior leader attention, and that is really reflected in that 2012-to-2014 change, and then the 2016 change.  We had the Secretary of Defense at the time, the Chairman of the Joint Chief and all the chiefs sign a 32-star memorandum talking about our strategy for getting after sexual assault.  The chief of staff of the Army at the time also made the sexual assault prevention and response one of his number-one issues for the force.  So that kind of leadership attention is really what helps us move the needle.

The challenges is, is that as Ms. Foster noted, our force changes over time.  In addition, the crime changes over time, and how perpetrators go after it changes over time, as well.  And not only that, but our science changes over time.  And so we know that we're able to make change, but we have to continue to invest.  And one of the things that we're really seeing that I think is going to make the greatest change is that investment.

Many of the changes that I've told you about over the last 15 years have come without any money attached.  This year, that $479 million that is in the president's budget request is --for 2023 -- is going to go a long way towards funding and sustaining these changes over time so that we don't see these dips.

Dr. Klahr, did you want to talk about the methods?

DR. KLAHR:  Sure, yeah.  Just to talk about the metric change piece.  So what I'll say is at the end of the day, because we didn't do a true experiment where we compared those two metrics head-to-head, it's impossible to say how much of that increase is because of the metric, and how much is a true, quote/unquote, "true increase" in how often these things are occurring that we're trying to measure.

We do have some clues about that, though, and you'll see that in the report.  Using those two metrics, we are able to look at three different types of assault.  We break it out into penetrative, non-penetrative or touching, and attempted sexual assault, or unwanted sexual contact.  And when we look at those three buckets across the two time periods from 2018 to 2021, what we see is that the prevalence for penetrative sexual assaults appears to be largely stable.  In fact, for women, it appears to be a bit lower than where it was in 2018.  Now, we're not statistically comparing those, but just what the numbers look like.  The increase that we're seeing between 2018 and 2021 is driven by an increase in the rate of non-penetrative sexual assaults and then attempted sexual assaults.

And so what -- one interpretation is here is that the metric change, these new set of questions is really bringing in a broader range of experiences that we weren't capturing with that prior metric.  These experiences may or may not sort of meet the very detailed criteria that are present in the older metric, but they are certainly experiences that are counter to good order and discipline.  So that could be what's going on.  It's also possible more of that is happening, or perhaps, some of both.


STAFF:  All right.  Unfortunately, that is all the time we have for this first session today, so we'll go ahead and break here, and the phone lines, for those who are choosing to remain, will start up again in about three minutes.

Thank you.