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Updated: Navy’s New Sexual Assault Plan Adds Counselors, Restricts Booze

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A Central Michigan University educator speakers to Sailors and Marines during the “No Zebras, No Excuses” sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR) program aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island in 2012. US Navy Photo

A Central Michigan University educator speakers to Sailors and Marines during the “No Zebras, No Excuses” sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR) program aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island in 2012. US Navy Photo

The Navy has issued its new plan to combat sexual assaults in the service that include limiting alcohol sales on Navy installations and increasing personnel trained to handle sexual assault cases, according to documents provided to USNI News on Thursday.

The changes in the Navy’s policy to handle sexual assault cases and prevention comes while some in Congress are pushing a bill that would limit commander’s discretion to prosecute alleged offenders under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

In a memo addressed from the Offices of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) to the Fleet, the service outlined a series of changes based on pilot sexual assault prevention programs undertaken at the San Diego Fleet Concentration Area and Fleet Training Center, Great Lakes.

According to the OPNAV message, the Navy will add a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) officer at the rank of Commander or higher to major naval commands including the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, Fleet Forces, Naval Surface Forces, Naval Submarine Forces, Naval Air Forces, Naval Air Systems Command, Naval Sea Systems Command, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and other commands in the service.

The SAPR officers will report directly to the respective organizations commanders.

The Navy will also begin to hire so-called civilian Deployed Resiliency Counselors (DRC) to carrier and big-deck amphibious warship commands.

“DRCs will deploy with Carrier Strike Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, and Amphibious Ready Groups to provide professional support continuity to deployed Sailors to ensure victims remain connected to resources throughout their deployment. These individuals should be in place by the end of [fiscal year 2014],” read the memo.

The Navy will also institute “roving barracks patrols,” to monitor sailors to establish a, “visible presence of leadership to deter behavior that may lead to sexual assault or other misconduct,” read the memo. At least a Chief Petty Officer or a Lieutenant will lead the patrols.

The changes will also include surveying Navy installations to ensure appropriate lighting and safety systems on base.

The new guidance is paired with a new set of rules on Naval installations for the sale of alcohol on base.

According to a Thursday memo from CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert to Navy Supply Systems Command, Navy Exchanges will restrict liquor sales to exchanges or dedicated package stores, limit floor space in non-package stores to less than 10 percent of retail space at the rear of stores, limit all alcohol sales from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and allow for sale of single use alcohol dectection devices at Navy Exchanges.

The changes the to the exchanges are mandated to be completed by October.

“Commanders have the responsibility for ensuring victims of sexual assault are supported, provided options in accordance with Department of Defense guidance, and that the allegations will be independently investigated and offenders held appropriately accountable,” Rear Adm. Sean S. Buck, director of the 21st Century Sailor office, said in a Thursday Navy statement.
“The execution of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response initiatives across the Fleet is an imperative that I believe will have an impact on reducing, with the goal of eliminating the crime of sexual assault from our Navy.”

The Navy’s new guidance comes amidst pressure from some in Congress who feel the Pentagon should wrest some control on how the services prosecute sexual assault and rape cases in the military.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has garnered bi-partisan support in the Senate for a bill that would create a new set of standards that would amend the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to take prosecution authority for sexual assault cases out of the hands of commanders and into those of military prosecutors.

Under current UCMJ guidelines, prosecutions of sexual assault cases are at the discretion of unit commanders.

Some in Congress — like Gillibrand — and sexual assault victims advocates have complained perpetrators of sexual assault in the military are often given slight punishment and deserve more scrutiny.

Gillibrand has gained recent support from so-called Tea-Party Republicans Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“I have to tell you, entering the committee hearing undecided, I was persuaded by Senator Gillibrand’s exceptionally passionate and able advocacy,” Cruz told reporters on Tuesday according to a MSNBC report.

As of Thursday, the bill had 35 co-sponsors in the Senate. However, the Republican controlled House is unlikely to pass the measure.

This post was updated from a previous version to include comments from U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Sean S. Buck.

  • Aeffesstoo

    I’m sure that the real reason the administration is doing this is that less drinking leaves more time for gay sex.

  • GIMPGIMP

    While this is a step in the right direction, the top leadership’s insistence that sexual assault be handled within the chain of command is completely wrong and their own statements regarding the seriousness of the offense argue against this status quo.

    If we have 26,000 sexual assaults annually, clearly the chain of command is not working to stop this heinous crime within the ranks. Military leadership argues how serious the crime is and how important it is to stamp it out, yet assert that the best way to handle it is through the same chain of command that has already proven woefully inadequate at the task with the same totally untrained individuals determining what is evidence and what isn’t.

    The Senate is right. Put these cases, every single one, in the hands of professional detectives, trained to gather evidence and conduct interrogations, and professional prosecutors, trained to determine what is and is not a crime. Military leadership says sexual assault is pervasive; they haven’t stopped it yet, so let law enforcement do it. I don’t even believe it should stay within the military lifelines at all. The cases should all be referred to civilian law enforcement and prosecutors, and the DoD should be forced to compensate local law enforcement for every case it has to take on. Put both accuser and victim in TPU and make them available to local law enforcement, pay the bills, and get on with it.

    Get civilian law enforcement professionals on the case; they have no interest in protecting the chain of command and even less interest in protecting the criminals. The military is clearly incapable of solving the problem.

    • Marcd30319

      Clearly, you are incapable of understanding ANYTHING about the military, the code of military justice, and the criminal investigative system.

      • GIMPGIMP

        Please allow me to retort: you clearly must believe that people who are not trained to do things do those things better than people who are trained to do those things.

        Clearly the UCMJ and military criminal investigative systems are failing miserably and absolutely on this particular crime. They’re being asked to do things they’re no good at and they’re doing them badly. None of the people assigned to these initial investigations are professional investigators. They’re random junior officers assigned to check things out, and all it does is add a bunch of work that they’re not trained to do to their task list.. They still have to do all the paperwork, flying, fighting, whatever, that their normal duties are, but now they have to conduct interviews and deliver reports on top of it.

        Why would anyone assume a person trained to fly aircraft or drive ships, or lead Soldiers or Marines into battle would be better suited to conducting investigations than professional investigators?

        Is a teacher better at fighting forest fires than a fireman? If not, why is a pilot assigned to conduct an investigation instead of an investigator? It makes no sense and leads to the impression that the military isn’t even trying to get it right.

        • Marcd30319

          Allow me to reply that you are totally ignorant of the military, the military justice system, and the court-martial system.

          The system of military justice is NOT the same as the civilian court. It is based on the Unified Code of Military Justice.

          Each service has its own judge advocate corps which are lawyers well verse in military law. They both prosecute cases or provide defense counsel to defendants.

          Each service has its own investigative arm that handles criminal investigations as does that service’s inspector general’s office.

          Boards of inquiry and court-martials are convened by the command authority. There is also an appeal process.

          Your analogies about firemen, teachers, etc. is a total non sequitur. Any military must operate based upon discipline and respect for the chain of command. Imposing ill-considered and politically-correct solutions is not the way to go.

          And talking about PC, consider the case of Lt. General Susan Helms:

          http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324021104578549891063938034.html

          General Helms made the correct decision based on the review of the acts of the case, but that wasn’t the pre-cooked PC outcome that Senator McCaskill and the other witch-hunters want. Consequently, a fine officer and a pioneering woman in the military must pay the price on the altar of political correctness.

          Is that justice?

          “The greatest tyrants over women are women.”

          – William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)