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Department of Defense Press Briefing with Secretary Hagel and Maj. Gen. Patton on the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Strategy from the Pentagon

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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Good afternoon. I'm going to make an announcement this afternoon, and after my announcement, I'll take a couple of questions. And then I'll ask General Gary Patton to get into the specifics of the briefing of what I'm going to announce.

Last night, I spoke with Secretary of the Air Force Donley about the allegations of misconduct involving the officer who had been responsible for the Air Force sexual assault and prevention efforts. And as you know, he's been removed from his position pending the outcome of -- of this investigation.

We're all outraged and disgusted over these very troubling allegations. Sexual assault is a despicable crime and one of the most serious challenges facing this department. It's a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people and the health, reputation and trust of this institution.

That reality is underscored by the annual report on sexual assault in the military being released today. This department may be nearing a stage where the frequency of this crime and the perception that there is tolerance of it could very well undermine our ability to effectively carry out the mission and to recruit and retain the good people we need. That is unacceptable to me and the leaders of this institution. And it should be unacceptable to everyone associated with the United States military.

We need cultural change where every service member is treated with dignity and respect, where all allegations of inappropriate behavior are treated with seriousness, where victims' privacy is protected, where bystanders are motivated to intervene, and where offenders know that they will be held accountable by strong and effective systems of justice.

All of our leaders at every level in this institution will be held accountable for preventing and responding to sexual assault in their ranks and under their commands. The department is putting in place important new programs to achieve this level of accountability.

Last month, I announced a set of measures to reform the military justice system. This included proposed changes to Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That change would eliminate the ability of a convening authority to change findings in courts martial, except for certain minor offenses. These changes would also require the convening authority to explain in writing any changes made to court martial sentences, as well as any changes to findings involving minor offenses.

Today, I'm announcing a new series of actions to further DOD's sexual assault and prevention efforts. I'm directing the military services to align their programs with a revised sexual assault prevention and response strategic plan. By clearly defining priorities, objectives, tasks, responsibilities, this plan and its effective implementation will help ensure that the DOD's ongoing initiatives to reduce and ultimately eliminate sexual assault are being closely tracked and are achieving their purpose.

In addition, I'm directing implementation of measures specifically addressing accountability, command climate, and victim advocacy. These new actions are as follows. I'm directing service chiefs to develop methods to hold military commanders -- all military commanders accountable for establishing command climates of dignity and respect in incorporating sexual assault prevention and victim care principles in their commands.

I'm directing the service secretaries to implement methods to improve victim treatment by their peers, coworkers, and chains of command. Direct victim input will also be incorporated into these methods. I'm directing that all commanders be provided the results of their subordinates' annual command climate surveys in order to enhance accountability and improve insight into command climate at every level -- at every level of the chain of command.

I'm directing the department to improve the effectiveness of sexual assault prevention and response programs in recruiting organizations to ensure the awareness and safety of new and aspiring service members. I'm directing DOD component heads to direct comprehensive and regular visual inspections of all DOD workplaces to include military academies to ensure that our facilities promote an environment of dignity and respect for all members and are free from materials that create a degrading or offensive work environment. This will be complete by July 1st.

To enhance the administration of military justice, I'm also directing the DOD acting general counsel to develop a method to incorporate the rights afforded to and through the Crime Victims' Rights Act into military justice practice. The general counsel will also evaluate the Air Force Special Victims' Council pilot program and other approaches to ensure that victims of sexual assault are provided the advice and counsel they need.

It is important for them to better understand their rights and to feel confident in the military justice system. That's a particularly important point. They have to feel confident that if they come forward, that, in fact, they can rely on our system of justice and, in fact, action will be taken and responsibility at all levels of command will be implemented and commanders will be held responsible.

Last week, I named a set of highly respected and experienced experts to serve on a panel called for in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013. The panel will conduct an independent review and assessment of DOD's systems used to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate crimes involving adult sexual assault and related offenses. It will convene its first meeting no later than July 1st. And I will ask the panel to accelerate its work and provide a final recommendation within 12 months.

Together, everyone in this department at every level of command will continue to work together every day to establish an environment of dignity and respect, where sexual assault is not tolerated, condoned or ignored, where there is clear accountability placed on all leaders at every level. The leadership of this department has no higher priority than the safety and welfare of our men and women in uniform, and that includes ensuring they are free from the threat of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I will continue as secretary of defense to prioritize the department's efforts to turn this problem around.

Thank you.

Lita.

Q: Mr. Secretary, one quick follow-up on your statement and then a question. In your statement, you mentioned some of the goals of eliminating the problem of sexual assault.

SEC. HAGEL: Ultimately eliminating, yes.

Q: Ultimately. I'm wondering, how possible do you think that is, considering the societal problems?

And then my question is actually on North Korea. There's been some discussion about this sort of provocation pause, and I'm wondering what you think about this, and do you think that the removal of the Musudan missiles constitutes some sort of calming down or pausing in aggression of North Korea? How are you interpreting this?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, on your first question, as I said in my -- in my comments, we're going to stay focused on every aspect of this problem. And ultimately eliminating sexual harassment, sexual assault should be our goal. Of course it's our goal. Is it going to be difficult to attain that? Of course it is.

But if we don't have that as the goal setting out, or if we have halfway measures or we'll -- we'll accept 80 percent, that's not good enough. We recognize what's ahead. And as I've already explained -- and I think pretty honestly and pretty clearly and pretty directly -- this is a cultural issue. It is a leadership issue. It is a command issue.

So we're not unaware of the challenges. And it isn't, as you note -- as I've said, it's not just isolated in the military. It is -- it is a cultural issue.

Second, North Korea; I would answer it this way. We are prepared to always respond to any contingency. As you know, the president of South Korea is here today, as you know, met with the president this morning. I was in one of those meetings. I will see her later this afternoon and be with her tonight.

Obviously, we talked a lot about this issue. But the United States is prepared with our allies, certainly with South Korea, to deal with any contingency, and we would hope that the leadership in North Korea understands that the wiser course of action is to participate in a process toward peace. And we would hope that -- and believe that can happen.

Q: Mr. Secretary.

SEC. HAGEL: David.

Q: The -- the case involving the Air Force officer has gotten, obviously, a lot of attention for obvious reasons, but do you think it says anything larger about the Pentagon's efforts to combat sexual assault?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, obviously, I have expressed my personal feelings rather directly. I think Secretary Donley; Chief Welsh expressed themselves rather clearly and directly this morning in their testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee and the questions they answered.

No one in this building is happy about what happened. We're disappointed. But that doesn't fix the problem. And it's just not the Pentagon. You saw the reports. You'll see more reports today on -- on this -- this issue. It's bigger than just a Pentagon. We're particularly disappointed because this alleged incident occurred here at the headquarters, the heart and the -- and the main leadership of our institution. And our men and women around the world who give of themselves and their families certainly must expect more and deserve more. So we all have to take some responsibility, and I have said clearly in my statement that we're all going to be held accountable at every level of command for every one of these incidents.

Q: Mr. Secretary.

SEC. HAGEL: I'll take one more and -- go ahead.

Q: You said people should feel comfortable coming forward. Senator Gillibrand, others have said, as long as commanders have control and oversight of this -- of sexual assault cases, whether they have the convening authority and the -- the decision to move forward cases, people will not feel comfortable. Are you ready to endorse some of those proposals coming out of the Congress to put some of that power into the hands of prosecutors or investigators?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, as you know, I took the initiative last month in suggesting we make some changes in Article 60 of the UCMJ. And it deals directly with that -- that issue.

It is my strong belief -- and I think others on Capitol Hill and within our institution -- the ultimate authority has to remain within the command structure. There are things we need to do, should do, will do to make it more accountable. That's why I suggested the changes. There will be more suggested changes.

We're working with the senators and the congressmen. They, I think, have very legitimate points. As I said in my comments, as I said a month ago, and every response I've had -- and I think our leaders have said -- what's going on is -- is just not acceptable. And we do have to go back and review every aspect of that chain of command, of that accountability. And some things do need to be changed. But I don't think taking it away, the responsibility -- ultimate responsibility away from the military, I think that would just weaken the system.

We know we've got big problems. We know that. And we've addressed that, and we'll continue to address it. It is imperfect. But I do think -- and it does say something that we're seeing more and more people come forward. That, I think, means -- and when you talk with some of these individuals -- that -- that there may well be some new confidence starting to develop that we will take it seriously, those charges, they won't -- the victims won't be penalized, we will do something about it, and we will get control of this.

So it's imperfect. I understand that. It's a problem. We know that. But we've got to address it. And I -- and I think working with the Congress, which we want to do, we will do, we are doing, is a responsible way to do this.

Thank you. Now I'm going to ask General Patton to come up and go into the specifics of the -- of what -- what I talked about specifically on what we're announcing today. Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: General. Thank you, general.

MAJOR GENERAL GARY PATTON: Thank you, Secretary Hagel.

I'm General Gary Patton. I'm the director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office for the Department of Defense, and I'm just going to have a couple opening remarks and then I'll address the rest of your questions.

Let me just reiterate that sexual assault's a terrible crime. It's an affront to the values we defend and the cohesion that our units demand. As today's report shows, we got some work to do. It remains a persistent problem in the department. It's a serious challenge confronting our military.

While we're moving ahead and putting in place important new programs to combat this crime, it's very clear we have more work to do. We have to eliminate this threat for the safety and the well-being of our men and women in uniform.

This year's report contains data from military services on reports and outcomes of sexual assault, as well as results from confidential service member surveys of both the active and reserve components of the force. The surveys are now conducted every two years. That was mandated in the last National Defense Authorization Act. And so this is the year where we have survey results incorporated into the annual report. And it will be so included in every two years from here on out.

The surveys provide us prevalence estimates or estimated occurrence of the unwanted sexual contacts that are occurring out there among the force. This year in our report, we've also included survey findings from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. This was a joint effort between the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Defense.

So, first, I'm going to go through some of the key findings of the annual report, and then I'm going to talk to very briefly about the strategy -- the strategic plan that Secretary Hagel announced, and then I'll -- I'll break there, because he already covered some of the -- the eight initiatives that he announced. And I'll be prepared to take any questions you have on those initiatives or anything else.

So from the annual report, what we have is some of our principal findings. Survey findings showed the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact increased for active-duty women. In this context, unwanted sexual contact is defined as any offense in the full range of offenses, from rape as a penetrating crime to abusive sexual contact as a non-penetrating crime.

So I just want to say, when the survey gives us prevalence for unwanted sexual contact, unwanted sexual contact is the term that encompasses that full range on the continuum of harm of the offenses I just described. The prevalence of unwanted sexual contact that we derive from the survey remain unchanged or active-duty men and for reserve component Reserves National Guard, men and women, so unchanged active-duty men, unchanged men and women in the Guard and Reserves, and I already described the increase for the active-duty women.

There were a total of 3,374 reports of sexual assault involving active-duty service members as either victims or perpetrators. Now, I've switched from the survey results and the prevalence to the actual reports. And these are the reports that come in from the victims, reported in either the form of an unrestricted report, unrestricted being one that then goes forward, and every unrestricted report is investigated independently by a military criminal investigative office, and restricted reports. Restricted reports remain confidential, but the victims still get medical care. So total, 3,374 total reports. That is a six percent increase from fiscal year '11.

Of these 3,374 reports, 816 were restricted, 2,558 were unrestricted. And these figures are all in our annual report. I'm just going through the key points here. And so when you compare the survey results, the prevalence figures, with the actual reports, the victims that make the tough step of coming forward and -- and filing a restricted or unrestricted report to an authority, it shows that sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime. And with prevalence remaining at a current high level, we view an increase in reports -- again, the victims coming forward and making these restricted or unrestricted reports, we view an increase in those reports as meaning that we have more victims coming forward that are receiving medical care, and -- and in the case of the unrestricted reports, we have more victims coming forward where their cases are entered into the law enforcement system, and ultimately, we have more cases that are investigated and then proceed into the military justice system and we hold -- holding offenders appropriately accountable.

Despite our, you know, strong leader emphasis, increased awareness and new SAPR [Sexual Assault Prevention and Response] programs that I've seen since the time I've been director past -- this past July, we have these things in place across the department, but this report tells us we've got more work to do.

With this understanding, the department today is publishing a revised sexual assault prevention and response strategic plan. Secretary Hagel made reference to this. This plan defines our strategic priorities and actions. It provides authoritative guidance to all department agencies and components. It operationalizes the key tasks that were defined by the Joint Chiefs last year at this time, when it developed and published the Joint Strategic Direction to the Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. And maybe most importantly, it aligns and really synchronizes the efforts across the department on five lines of effort. And those five lines of effort are prevention, investigation, accountability, victim advocacy, and assessment.

And the term assessment is important, as one of our lines of effort, because this is not a static program. The Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Program you see across the department today is not the one we saw even -- even as I stepped in the office, you know, just months ago there in July, and it's not the program we're going to see in the future. Secretary Hagel mentioned, we are continually reassessing ourselves, looking at ways as we strive to improve and make a difference here and put in place initiatives, eight announced new -- new initiatives announced today that will make a difference and change the culture, really drive the culture change that we're talking about here to turn this around.

Along with the strategic plan that Secretary Hagel has just described for you -- and I've given you some additional description of it -- he also gave you the eight initiatives that we feel are directly responsive to issues identified in the annual report and which will contribute to making this enduring culture change.

I'm prepared to describe any or all of these initiatives right now in more detail. And I'm happy to answer your questions. Please.

Q: Secretary Hagel mentioned climate survey. I know the Air Force only has a climate survey every two years, and they're not used to rate leaders. What's going to be new here? Are the services going to be having climate surveys more often? And are they going to be focused specifically on sexual assault?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Okay, the -- all the services do some form of climate survey, command climate survey. The National Defense Authorization Act stipulated that these climate surveys be done at a certain frequency, that there's one initially done at 120 days or earlier upon assumption of command. That's the initial one. And then NDAA also specifies that there will be one done annually thereafter. So within the first 120 days is the initial, and then annual through the time -- the lifetime of the commander in command.

These surveys are important. We wrote a number of questions into the survey. It's not just about sexual assault. It's about hazing. It's about other elements of climate that are important to having an effective command. But we wrote some questions into the survey. We put those questions in the first surveys back last April, so about a year ago. About 50,000 of those surveys are conducted every month. We see the results. We office sees the results of the ones focused solely on the sexual assault questions.

What's different answering your questionnaire? What's different is that this initiative will direct that the survey results be given to the next higher commander in the chain of command. Currently, the system is, the survey results are provided to the surveyed commander. The higher level commander can request the results, but they're not given as a matter of policy to the higher level command.

So what this does is afford the visibility and the -- of that senior commander. So if I'm -- I'm a colonel in command, I have subordinate lieutenant colonel battalions in the Army beneath me, subordinate in my organization, I'm going to be seeing the annual reports -- annual surveys, rather, command climate surveys of each of those battalion commanders as they are provided to me directly. And by this, we -- again, we're increasing the level of visibility of the command climate in the subordinate units. It adds a more senior, more experienced commander into the mix, in terms of analyzing, assessing these results. And ultimately, if there is trouble and climate issues that are not corrected and remedied and addressed, able to hold that junior commander accountable by virtue of that.

And that's just one set of inputs. There's lots of other ways commanders can get a sense of what's going on across their formation, but, again, this is aimed at increasing accountability and visibility at the higher level commander.

Q: We're talking about (OFF-MIKE) level these surveys are going to be done?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: It'll -- the surveys will -- will be -- they're currently conducted at multiple levels in the services. And so the direction is that they'll now be provided -- whatever levels they're conducted will be provided to the next higher level commander.

Yes, Larry.

Q: But, general, do you accept that the problem is getting worse? Or do you think that people are simply more comfortable reporting the problem and that this might be a measure of success that the number has gone up?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Yeah, well, I'll break that into two pieces. The -- when we look at the -- the actual reports -- these are the victims that, again, make the very difficult step coming forward and filing a restricted or unrestricted report -- we actually view those -- an increase in those reports to be -- it could be a sign of improved victim confidence.

And there are other things we look at in terms of victim confidence, as well, and I'll get to that in a second. And like I said, we want to keep -- we want more reports, because more reports -- every report means another victim getting cared for. And for the unrestricted reports, it means more cases being investigated by law enforcement and then ultimately taken to, you know, the prosecution to the justice system and holding offenders accountable.

On the prevalence side -- now I'm shifting back to the survey -- the survey is -- it's confidential. It goes out to a broad base of individuals, all service, male and female, different ages. We take the results. They're weighted. I mean, I got a team of Ph.D.s and statisticians that look at this every year. It's the same questions. The methodology is consistent from 2006 to 2010 to 2012. Those are the three data points for the survey, very consistent methodology through those years. It's the same questions.

And -- and what we saw this year was, as I mentioned, for the active-duty females, an increase in the prevalence indicated by the responses in that survey. And so we have to take that very seriously. That is another data point. It's one of the key ways that we measure whether a program or prevention programs are having -- are effective and having -- having the, you know, ultimately preventing the -- preventing the crimes from happening in the first place.

What we want to see is the prevalence trend to come down. And until the prevalence trend rate comes down to the point where it essentially intersects with the reporting rate, then they both go down. But as long as the prevalence rate remains at a point and a condition that are very high, unacceptably high level, you know, we see that additional reports at least means a sign of victim confidence and more victims coming forward.

What else do we look at for victim confidence? We look at the rate at which victims remain in the justice system. That's something we look at very closely. You can't prosecute a case when the victim withdraws, maybe makes an unrestricted report, but then withdraws from the process. And so we look at that rate.

We also look at the rate at which victims come forward and make an unrestricted report and then they convert from a restricted report to an unrestricted report. We see that as a sign of victim confidence, willingness to go into the -- take their case into the law enforcement realm. And this year, we actually saw an uptick there, again, a positive indicator that we're having -- that there are some signs there of improved victim confidence. We saw an increase from 14 percent last year to 17 percent this year in terms of people, victims who came forward, made a restricted report and converted to the unrestricted report.

So there are a number of things we look at. The survey's a big part of it, but we're also pulling apart reports and things we're trying -- that also get at victim confidence. I'll just -- just reference back to one of the things Secretary Hagel announced in terms of initiatives, is this initiative to direct the service chiefs to develop methods that -- where we are caring for victims and we're monitoring and assessing how -- and improving how they're being treated by their peers, their coworkers, and their leaders.

And why is that important? Because our survey told us that victims weren't satisfied with the way they're being treated in the unit. They perceive retaliation in the form of social retaliation, leadership retaliation, again, perceiving different forms of retaliation. That's a huge barrier for reporting. And so we pay attention to that.

And then so what the secretary directed is directly related to that. Get out there and develop methods, by which we are, you know, given better treatment, not medical treatment, but better peer-to-peer, better leader-to-led treatment in terms of, again, having the effect of improved victim confidence.

Q: What is the -- what are the survey numbers that you mentioned? Is that the -- that's the 19,000 number that we had two years ago, right? So what's the number for this year?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Yeah, let me describe that. So, first -- first, you have to take the percentage that's derived from the survey, so it's a probability. And so for active-duty women, the percentage that we get from the survey is that -- again, this is an estimate, but it's derived from the survey methods, that the 6.1 percent of active-duty women were victimized by unwanted sexual contact based on the 2012 survey. That's a percentage. For men, that percentage was 1.2 percent, so 1.2 percent active-duty men, victims of unwanted sexual contact, according to the survey.

The number you're referring to, in 2010, a calculation was made, an extrapolation made. When you take those percentages -- percentages and you apply those percentages against the end strength of the force for male and female that gives you a figure. Again, it's an extrapolation from the percentage that's derived from the survey.

This year, when you apply the 6.1 percent figure to the female end strength of the force, you get about 12,000. And when you apply the male percentage, 1.2 percent, to the male end strength in force, you get about 14,000, plus or minus, you know, 1,000 or so within the -- within the survey results.

So that's -- that's what you get when -- that's the equivalent figure. So you add those two together, that's a five-digit figure, 26,000. And that would be the comparative figure to the 19,000 derived from the 2010 survey.

Q: And that's active-duty and Guard and Reserve, the 26,000, right?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: No.

Q: Okay.

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: That's the active-duty -- that's based on the active-duty survey.

Q: Okay. And then, also, one more numbers question for you. How much of the -- because -- and I apologize, but we didn't get the report in advance of the briefing, so, you know, we don't have these numbers -- how many of the -- the total number that were eligible for charged -- to be charged by the U.S. military, how many were actually court-martialed and convicted?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Yeah, if I could save that question and get you an answer to that when we dig into the -- that's in the report. I can get that answer to you. My conviction -- I need to make sure I got the numerator and the denominator correct, and I want to -- I want to make sure I have that straight before I give that to you. So we'll -- I'll come back to you on that. I'll take that question for you.

Please.

Q: So among the things you're worried about is the perceived legitimacy of the process. What's the argument for not just taking it outside of the chain of command?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Well, I think Secretary Hagel addressed that question. And so I'll just say that, having been a commander for over five years in the -- in the field grade ranks, at the grade of lieutenant colonel and colonel, I mean, I'll just say that we need to have commanders more involved in the solution to this problem, not less involved. And we want them more involved because we know it's important to set the right climate.

Commanders lead by example. They set standards. And commanders have to hold people accountable to meeting those standards. And when people choose to be undisciplined and violate those standards, they need to have the -- the tools and the authorities to take care of that and address that.

And so -- so that's one side of it. The other side is, I'll just add that the -- the section 576 panel, which has been mandated in the NDAA '13, this is the independent panel that Secretary Hagel mentioned, that panel, one of the charters for that panel is to look exactly at this issue, the role of the commander in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, as it pertains to the investigation, prosecution of sexual assault cases. And that panel, we've -- we've made -- I believe we made the announcement of the panel members today.

MODERATOR: We're going to (OFF-MIKE)

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Yeah, we're going to make the -- we're announcing the DOD members of that panel. That panel will commence work. And as Secretary Hagel said, he has called upon that panel today to complete its work in 12 months versus the 18 months that -- that it was assigned in the -- in the NDAA.

So we want a quick return on that, and that's -- that's one of the probably most key issues that that panel's looking at, is the role of the commander and UCMJ and investigations and so forth.

Please?

Q: (OFF-MIKE) understand, that panel will consider taking the investigations outside of the chain of command?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: The -- I'd have to look at the exact language in the NDAA, but it was told to look at the role of the commander in the Uniform Code of Military Justice as applies to investigations and prosecutions of sexual assault.

Q: General, Secretary Hagel talked a lot about accountability. The president earlier today talked about accountability. Can you point to any cases where commanders have been held accountable for mishandling sexual assault cases or for a poor command climate regarding sexual assault cases?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Well, I think what I'd -- what I'd point to is the -- the initiative that Secretary Hagel put in place today, which is that, again, aiming at the greater command accountability, in addition to the command climate survey piece, which I already described, but I think more directly relating to command accountability, and that is directing the service secretaries and the service chiefs to develop methods to assess the performance of -- evaluate the performance of commanders with respect to how they -- their establishment of a climate of dignity and respect and how they are adhering to the principles of sexual assault prevention and response in their command.

So that's -- that's something that is being reinforced from the secretary of defense level out across the field, that it's -- it's that important. And it's -- it's hugely important that we get -- that commanders are held accountable. And this is something that he's announcing in his initiative that will really improve that measure of accountability up and down the chain of command.

Q: This isn't a new problem. Are you saying that people haven't been held accountable? I mean, can you point to any cases of this? I mean, we keep hearing about accountability, but, I mean, is there any substance to it?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Well, there's plenty of substance to it. I mean, there's plenty of cases to look at, you know, in terms of cases that are -- yielded convictions of -- of offenders and being held appropriately accountable. And -- and so, you know, we're looking -- we're always looking at ways to improve every -- every step of that process.

We have military investigative organizations, criminal investigators that are now taking every -- every sexual assault case, they independently investigate. And then those cases are provided to commanders, and commanders -- we've recently elevated the disposition level, the authority level. Last year, it was at the '05 level. We elevated that by order of Secretary Panetta to the '06 level. And so now you have '06s making -- in command positions making disposition decisions as to how the sexual assault cases will be handled in terms of preferring court martial charges or taking to a non-judicial punishment administrative action.

So there's -- I'd just end at there and say that this is not a static program. All the lines of effort are subject to change. And this is an area we're taking very seriously and our accountability system -- in addition to the independent panel that I described -- we're looking at ways we can improve that. And I think some of the secretary's initiatives today really -- you know, really do focus on -- on greater accountability.

MODERATOR: We have time for two more questions. Andrew.

Q: Okay. General, to the point about this assessment tool that the service chiefs might develop to determine the -- whether the commanders are creating a climate of respect, what will happen to that -- the results of that tool? Will that be incorporated in a personnel file, on a command screening board, in a promotion process? What will -- after that is assessed, what's the next follow-on step towards accountability?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Yeah, well, I think the task was develop methods. And so it's a -- it's not a prescriptive task. So the answers to your questions will lie in the methods that are developed. And then the service chiefs -- I believe the suspense for that particular task was -- let me just put my finger on that -- yeah, it was report your methods back to the secretary by November 1st.

And so there's a suspense there. And the -- I would -- I would expect that the methods that are developed will address the points that you made. I mean, how -- how is this incorporated into evaluations? You know, what is the method of assessment? But, again, we're relying on the -- the service chiefs and secretaries, with their vast experience and -- and ownership of this problem, to develop solutions that work for their service on that.

MODERATOR: Stephanie.

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Thank you.

Q: Yeah, have you or anyone in your office regarding this specific incident that -- they arrested happened this weekend, here with the lieutenant colonel, have you or anyone in your office spoken to him? Has he offered up any kind of explanation or apology? Or can you just try to shed some light on that?

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Yeah, I'm going to have to refer to the Air Force on that. My interaction with that lieutenant colonel Air Force officer is -- he may have been in a meeting or two that I was a part of. I don't recall ever meeting him. I know he does work on the Air Force staff, on the Sexual Assault Prevention Response Program. He's been removed from his job. And Secretary Hagel made -- made all those comments to you.

I really don't have anything to add to that. So I -- I would expect the Air Force to keep us posted on that, but that's where we're at on that right now.

MODERATOR: (OFF-MIKE)

Q: Hi.

MODERATOR: (OFF-MIKE)

Q: Sure. You and the secretary have spoken a lot about holding commanders accountable and caring -- better care for victims; is there anything in here that deals more directly with either stopping attackers from committing the crimes in the first place or holding the people who commit the crimes more accountable? Because it seems like, you know, sometimes even in the best of commands, there may be bad people under those good commanders.

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Yeah, well, I think a -- something that we're working on right now on that line is the special victims capability. And this gets at investigators and prosecutors and improving their training, their methods, and their -- and the way they collaborate and work together, so that we can get exactly what you're saying.

I mean, these are -- a lot of these are very difficult cases to prosecute, whether you're in the civilian sector or military sector. And so we are undergoing right now a program and developing policy on the development of this special victim's capability. This was something that was mandated in the last National Defense Authorization Act. We're working on that. We have a report back to Congress due in September of this year. We're collaborating with the services on it.

But it really gets at developing standards and developing the very best training practices for investigators and prosecutors, training them together, just like they'll operate, and then putting them together in -- in a work environment where they're -- you know, from beginning to end, focused solely -- they're specially trained and now they're focused solely on solving these cases, developing the best evidence, and then -- and then being able to take that forward and prosecute.

Because, you know, we got to have -- the services are doing a lot of this already. And so we're working to standardize, in many respects, what they already have underway in some of these areas. But I've been out to the school where we teach a course. It's called the -- it's Army's Fort Leonard Wood. That's where we train the Army's criminal investigative division and military policemen. And I sat through this -- elements of this course. I've talked to the instructors. I've talked to their CID agents out there. And people have been working on investigating sexual assault cases really their whole military career and, in some cases, in the civilian law enforcement.

And -- and they are -- that is a best practice out there. And we're looking to standardize that as a training best practice as part of the special victims capability so everybody can benefit from the -- from that type of training and then make them better investigators to get after these very difficult and, in most cases, complex cases to prosecute.

MODERATOR: Okay, thank you.

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, general.

MAJ. GEN. PATTON: Thank you.


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