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.