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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

Jan 22, 2021 - World

Lloyd Austin's first call as defense secretary goes to NATO

Austin during his confirmation hearing. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images

Lloyd Austin's first call after being confirmed as defense secretary on Friday went to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the retired general announced on Twitter.

Why it matters: Former President Trump took office four years ago questioning NATO's relevance and value to the United States. President Biden and his team are sending just the opposite signal, with Austin emphasizing America's "steadfast commitment" to the alliance and signing off with "#WeAreNATO."

2 hours ago - World

U.S. and NATO answer Putin in writing while bracing for Ukraine invasion

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The U.S. and NATO provided Russia with written proposals on Wednesday to advance a "diplomatic path forward," even as they warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days.

Why it matters: This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act. The U.S. and NATO want to show they're serious about diplomacy but unwilling to compromise on "core principles" — all without providing Vladimir Putin with an additional pretext for escalation.

The political leanings of the Supreme Court justices

Data: Martin-Quinn scores; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Supreme Court will continue to have a solid conservative majority even with Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement.

How to read the chart: An analysis by political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn, known as the Martin-Quinn Score, places judges on an ideological spectrum. A lower score indicates a more liberal justice, whereas a higher score indicates a more conservative justice.