Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan released a memorandum to all of the military services announcing the establishment of a Sexual Assault Accountability and Investigation Task Force.
"Sexual assault impacts the entire force. … None of us are immune to this crime, and all of us are responsible," Shanahan said in the memo. "I am resolved that we will do all we can … to address sexual assault in our military."
The acting secretary noted that "the results of the 2018 Report on Sexual Assault and Harassment in the military academies are unacceptable."
The task force "will review and make recommendations that will improve existing processes to address sexual assault, while ensuring our formations, our communities, the rights of the victim and the accused, and the integrity of the legal process are protected," Shanahan wrote.
The Defense Department will take a holistic approach to eliminate sexual assault, he said, which includes efforts to prevent sexual assaults, support and care for victims, and ensure a robust and comprehensive military justice process.
While the immediate focus of the task force "will be on reforms and improvements to the military justice process," Shanahan said, "the [DOD] will continue its steadfast efforts to prevent this crime and support our victims."
"The importance of this work cannot be overstated," the acting secretary wrote.
"We have an opportunity to underscore the integrity of our military justice system and advance our capability to address sexual misconduct against the men and women of our armed forces, while improving the readiness and lethality of the DOD," he said. "Only through diligence and innovation will we eliminate this reprehensible crime from our ranks."