Military academy sex assaults surveyed

One female student in seven attending United States military academies during spring 2004 said she had been sexually assaulted since becoming a cadet or midshipman, according to a report on the first survey of sexual misconduct on the three campuses released March 18 by the Defense Department. And more than half the women studying at the Army, Navy, and Air Force academies reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment on campus. But only a third of the assaults and few of the harassment incidents were reported to authorities.

The survey suggests a prevailing climate at the academies that worries military leaders. Too many students condone unwanted sexual advances, and too few dare to confront classmates with their transgressions or to report them, the survey shows.

Defense officials said they were particularly concerned about the widespread cynicism students revealed toward the honor codes in their studies. Substantial shares of students at all three schools reported that their classmates will break academy rules and even the honor code if they know they won’t get caught.

In March and April 2004, the Department of Defense surveyed 1,906 women — all but 65 of those attending the three academies, along with a representative sample of 3,107 men. The survey attempted to “actually find out what happened” to each victim of assault or harassment, said DOD Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz, whose office conducted the survey.

Among the women surveyed across the three academies, 262 students reported 302 incidents of sexual assault, including 94 instances of alleged rape. About 176 cases involved inappropriate touching. Men reported 55 sexual assaults. The incidents occurred from 1999 to 2004, mostly in dormitory rooms, and the offenders were primarily upperclassmen, according to the report.

Two-thirds of the sexual assaults against men and women — 248 incidents — were not reported to authorities, the survey shows. Officials said this is a result of privacy concerns and other factors that deter assault victims from reporting the crime, even in the general population.

But students reported other factors germane to their military campus culture. One is fear among victims that they, too, could be punished for conduct related to the assault, such as underage drinking. Another is a sense of loyalty to classmates. A third is fear of reprisals by classmates or senior officers, according to the survey. Of the 96 cases that women reported to academy authorities, 29 led to criminal investigations, according to the survey. It was unclear how many led to actual charges against the alleged offender.

David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the frequency of sexual assaults and the reluctance of victims to report the crimes seem to reflect trends among other college campuses. Rape is considered the most under-reported violent crime in the nation at large.

A 2004 study by the American College Health Association found comparable rates of sexual assault among female college students. But the military academies say they hold themselves to higher standards than the rest of society.

“Our goal is to produce military leaders of character,” Inspector General Schmitz said at a news conference. “And obviously, sexual assaults are not a good indication of character. In fact, they’re a very bad indication.”

– edited from The Washington Post, March 19, 2005
PeaceMeal, March/April 2022

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Critics say U.S. defense budget approaching $800 billion doesn’t buy what the military really needs

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) emerged from the House Armed Services Committee in September with a major addition: $23.9 billion for more weapons, research and development, and maintenance. The House version of the annual defense budget now totals nearly $778 billion with $738 billion of it for the Pentagon, well above the Biden administration’s proposed $753 billion with $715 billion of it for the Pentagon.

In addition to boosting the total 5% over last year’s bill, Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, the committees top Republican, said the money authorizes all combatant commanders’ unfunded priorities — the “wish lists” submitted alongside budget requests. “Most importantly, this amendment ensures we have the resources necessary to counter the growing threat from China and other adversaries,” Rogers said.

Both chambers must reconcile their versions and then pass a final bill, but the Senate Armed Services Committee already added a similar amount to its version. The increases aren’t unexpected — Republicans and hawkish Democrats criticized Biden’s proposal for months, but they come amid growing calls for smaller defense budgets better tailored to the challenges the United States faces.

After the war in Afghanistan and other overseas interventions, “it would be logical that we shouldn’t have a defense budget that is more than Donald Trump’s budget and more than the height of the Cold War,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California) said on September 2, hours after voting against advancing the NDAA, “Progressives already were compromising” on Biden’s budget, “but then to have the Republicans add $23.9 billion in addition to that when we have control of the House, the Senate, and the presidency, that’s just unacceptable.”

Another member of the committee, Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-California),said during debate on Rogers’ amendment, “It’s remarkable to me that as we end our long and expensive campaign in Afghanistan, so many are concluding that what we need is more war, more weapons, and billions of dollars more than even what the Pentagon is asking for.”

Speaking to a member of the news media later, Khanna said, “The way we’re going to compete with China is doing things that increase our technology lead,” citing cybersecurity, space tech-nology, and “the effective use of AI [Artificial Intelligence] and quantum computing. But to just provide a blanket increase, as $23.9 billion did, without any consideration of all of the sole-source contracts [and] without any consideration of the excessive profits that defense contractors’ executives are making is not positioning us to have a strong, modern military.”

Committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington), who voted against Rogers’ amendment, said during debate on it that “the single most important thing” the Pentagon “needs to do right now is spend its money wisely.” The department should improve its acquisition process and better assess future threats, and an additional $23.9 billion “makes it easier for them to just keep doing what they’ve been doing.”

Smith added, “We have too many programs over the course of the last 20 years that we’ve spent billions of dollars on and gotten nothing for the taxpayer out of it. Simply throwing more money at the problem does not solve it.”

That view is shared by some in the Pentagon. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in September that 3% to 5% annual increases might not be needed if inefficiencies in the budget process were eliminated. Buying platforms the military doesn’t need and paying contractors when they can’t work because the budget isn’t passed before the fiscal year starts both increase costs. If we could just get that [budget] stability, if we could make sure we focus our investments on what’s required for the threat only, then we can actually do it with $700 billion a year. If we continue to do it the same way we are, we have to have bigger budgets.”

– edited from Business Insider, September 17, 2021
PeaceMeal, Sept./October 2021

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)