U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, announced today that a key Senate panel passed her legislation calling on the Armed Services to report on their policies to improve anti-hazing training, track and respond to hazing incidents in the military. Currently hazing incidents are not adequately monitored and tracked, making it difficult to determine how widespread the problem of hazing poses in our military. The Senate panel also approved Senator Gillibrand's legislation urging the Defense Department to strengthen diversity among senior ranks in the Armed Forces.
The two Gillibrand provisions passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, 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 a Marine review following the death of Pvt. Hamson McPherson, Jr., a Staten Island Marine who committed suicide, after he was allegedly hazed by members of his unit. Legislation now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
"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 provisions would require the military services to provide a plan within six months that outlines new steps the military would take to track, prevent and punish hazing. The military would be required to submit a report on 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.
To address concerns over equal treatment and opportunity for service members, Senators Gillibrand included another provision, based on a bill she introduced with Ben Cardin (D-MD), that would require the Secretary of Defense to develop a system to measure recruitment, promotion, and retention of senior-level leaders 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 measure its progress in achieving a diverse corps of leaders who are truly reflective of its population.
The military budget must be approved by the full committee as it considers the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The bill will then be sent to the full Senate for passage, then to Conference with the House, after which it will go to the President for signature.