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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

Dave Lawler, author of World
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."

4 mins ago - Health

WHO authorizes China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

A medical worker administering a coronavirus vaccine in Nanjing, China, on May 7, 2021. Photo: Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The World Health Organization authorized China’s Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Friday, making it the sixth vaccine to receive clearance from the global health agency.

Why it matters: The authorization will allow COVAX, the WHO's initiative to equitably develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines, to purchase Sinopharm's vaccine and bolster its supply, according to the New York Times.

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: Amazon postpones Prime Day sales in India and Canada over coronavirus surge — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell — True COVID-19 death toll is double the official numbers, study finds.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.