Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin directed multiple actions to transform climate and enhance the prevention of harmful behaviors at the military service academies on Aug. 17.
In a memorandum to Department of Defense senior leaders, Austin noted that while the MSAs are dominant in many domains, they have far more work to do to halt sexual assault and harassment. The actions, which accompany the release of the 2023 Military Service Academy On-Site Installation Evaluation Report, identify the additional measures the DOD will take to comprehensively improve prevention efforts, inform future policy development, and better support existing efforts based on the recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military.
Austin has made preventing sexual assault and harassment a priority since the first days of his tenure and he has continued to follow through on that commitment. On March 10, in response to survey data, Austin directed the under-secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to immediately conduct On-Site Installation Evaluations at the MSAs to assess their climates and make specific recommendations concerning policies, practices, and resources to prevent self-directed harm and prohibited abusive or harmful acts.
The department continues a collaborative and research-informed approach to prevention. During the evaluation of command climate at the MSAs, site visit teams collected data through interviews, focus groups and surveys to produce preliminary findings. These findings were discussed with the leaders of the MSAs and their respective military departments during the evaluation process and, in some cases, implementation of recommended actions is already underway.
To transform the climate at the MSAs, Austin has directed department leaders to take transformational action to swiftly adapt the approach to prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment and other harmful behaviors. Progress on these issues will take time and require constant vigilance and committed leadership to implement the lasting change needed to ensure the safety of cadets and midshipmen at the academies.
More information about DOD efforts to prevent harmful behaviors can be found here.