Sexual assault and harassment in the military “remain persistent and corrosive problems across the Total Force,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin wrote in a Feb. 26 memo, putting the military on a new path to solve these issues.
Less than three months on the job, Austin has hit the ground running, specifically on this issue, where he set a deadline for every command in the military, both active and reserve, to conduct a Defense Organizational Climate Survey (DEOCS). What Austin wants is a baseline gauge at the unit level.
Austin noted he has seen some progress in the military’s response, however, “the effort is far short of what is required to make lasting change,” he wrote. He called on the entire Department of Defense, uniformed and civilian, to take “direct accountability” and make “meaningful change” a priority.
“To make real progress, we must consider outside views and ideas, to the extent practicable, and be transparent about where we have fallen short,” he wrote.
The surveys are just the start. The memo lays out three immediate actions to counter sexual assault and harassment. He’s also established a “90-day Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military” which will develop a plan for moving forward.
The actions he’s calling for will assess compliance with sexual assault and harassment policies and integrated violence prevention efforts; establish a violence prevention workforce; and conduct evaluations at high-risk installations.
The command survey results will help each service identify high risk installations.
The Navy’s deadlines for completing the surveys are April 30 for active-duty commands and May 30 for the reserve, according to NAVADMIN 068/21.
“Department-wide completion of the DEOCS will establish a baseline climate assessment, enabling transparency and accountability to allow the Department of the Navy to detect and correct emerging hot spots for harmful behaviors and climate issues and identify areas of promise and healthy command climates,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John B. Nowell, Jr. wrote in the message.
The assessment must be done using the new DEOCS version 5.0, released on Jan. 4. Commands that have completed a command climate survey since Jan. 4 with version 5.0 do not have to conduct another to meet this requirement.
The Navy requires command climate assessment within 90 days of a commander’s assumption of command. Follow-ups are due every 9 to 12 months during that commander’s tenure.
DEOCS instructions are available at https//www.defenseculture.mil/Assessment-to-Solutions/A2S-Home/.
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