Defense Dept. Rejects Gov't Agency's Recommendation on ‘Sexual Assault Victimization’ in the Military
11:55 AM, Feb 6, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
On January 23, news broke that outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had issued a directive that the military's ban on women in combat would be lifted. The New York Times reported that his decision was in response to unanimous agreement among the Joint Chiefs of Staff as expressed in a letter to Panetta:
The Times article said it was unclear why the Joint Chiefs decided to act now after years of discussion, although there is speculation that recent threats of legal action may have played a role. However, a Government Accountability Office report issued on January 29 raises some questions about the timing of such a monumental change in policy.
The broad focus of the report is spelled out in its title: "DOD Has Taken Steps to Meet the Health Needs of Deployed Servicewomen, but Actions Are Needed to Enhance Care for Sexual Assault Victims." An explanation of the special focus on sexual assault victims appears early in the report [emphasis added]:
According to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, this report was originally due by December 31, 2012. As mentioned above, the report was released on January 29, but given that the paragraph above does not mention the lifting of the women in combat ban, the GAO report was apparently finalized prior to Panetta's announcement. This policy change, much more far reaching than even the change opening "14,000 additional positions" in early 2012, exponentially increases the need for "continued vigilance" regarding "sexual assault victimization" that the GAO calls for. Therefore, the timing of the announcement lifting the ban and the DOD's reaction to the GAO report recommendations is curious.
The GAO made two recommendations at the conclusion of its inquiry regarding "sexual assault victimization":