With the Senate Armed Services Committee set to debate the military budget bill, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, today called on the Department of Defense to create a database in order to track and respond to hazing incidents in the military. The Defense Department currently does not have a database in place to monitor hazing incidents across all services, making it difficult to determine how widespread the problem of hazing poses in our military. Senator Gillibrand also urged the Defense Department to strengthen diversity among senior ranks in the Armed Forces. The two bills introduced by Gillibrand in the Senate today comes after the Senator's calls earlier this year for an Army review of hazing incidents following the deaths of Private Danny Chen, who was subjected to frequent race-based hazing and physical abuse by members of his platoon, and Marine Pvt. Hamson McPherson, Jr., a Staten Island Marine who committed suicide, after he was allegedly hazed by members of his unit.
"No soldier should have to mentally or physically fear another soldier," said Senator Gillibrand. "There is no room for discrimination and mistreatment in our military. A database to track and monitor hazing incidents in the military, improved reporting procedures, and diversity in military leadership are common sense steps towards preventing any more tragedies from happening and ensuring that those responsible for this type of abuse are held accountable."
Gillibrand's bill would require the Secretary of Defense to provide a plan within one year that outlines new steps the military would take to track, prevent and punish hazing. The military would be required to create a database to determine the extent and nature of the incidents and must respond to and resolve alleged hazing incidents. To protect soldiers who fear retaliation from their peers or commanders for reporting hazing, the military would have to develop procedures to allow soldiers to anonymously report incidents.
Currently, departments within the Armed Forces use different definitions of hazing, which affect the actions each department would take to discipline those involved. Gillibrand's bill would require the Secretary of Defense to make a recommendation for a uniform definition of hazing to be used across all departments. Gillibrand's measure would also force the Defense Department to look into revising the uniform code of military justice to improve the prosecution of hazing incidents.
To address concerns over equal treatment and opportunity for service members, Senators Gillibrand and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced another bill in the Senate today that would require the Secretary of Defense to develop specific benchmarks to promote and recruit senior-level members who reflect the military's diverse population, including women and minorities. According to a March 2011 report issued by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, minorities and women are still underrepresented among the Armed Forces' top leadership, compared with the service members they lead. This bill would enhance the Defense Department's ability to recruit, retain and promote leaders who are truly reflective of its population.