Jan 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Lloyd Austin orders evaluation of military sexual assault prevention programs

Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee about ongoing U.S. military operations. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Gen. Lloyd Austin III testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, DC. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin directed senior military leaders to send him reports on sexual assault prevention programs, so the department can evaluate which initiatives have been effective, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Incidents of sexual misconduct reports have increased steadily since 2006, the AP says, and the consistent trend line has concerned senators, who pressed Austin on how he plans to tackle the problem during his confirmation hearings.

  • Austin told senators, “This starts with me and you can count on me getting after this on Day One.”
  • The directive was Austin's first official act since taking office.

By the numbers: There was a 13% spike in reports in 2018 and a 3% increase in 2019, according to department reports reviewed by the AP.

  • Nate Galbreath, the acting director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, suggested the increase in reports could indicate that more people were willing to come forward, therefore gaining confidence in the justice system.
  • Last April he also stated that he hoped that the lower increase in 2019 reports suggested a trend in declining assaults.

Where it stands: Last year officials announced a new system in which any victim who refuses to file a public criminal report can provide details about their alleged attacker so investigators can look into their backgrounds.

Go deeper