Statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response

Statement

By:  Charles Hagel
Date: Dec. 20, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Eliminating sexual assault in the military is one of the Department of Defense's highest priorities. We welcome President Obama's continued leadership on this issue, and we share his commitment to doing whatever it takes to solve this problem. All of us at DoD have a responsibility for the health and well-being of our people, and, as I have made clear to DoD's senior leaders, our success depends on a dynamic and responsive approach to all issues that affect our men and women, particularly sexual assault. We must continually strive to improve our prevention and response programs.

We will work to build upon the significant progress we've made this past year. In April, I called on Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and I'm pleased that this and other measures we recommended have been included in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). They provide much-needed authorities that will help strengthen our sexual assault prevention and response efforts, and we are committed to implementing them effectively and without delay.

These measures will complement other initiatives I directed throughout this year to strengthen commander accountability, command climate, victim advocacy, and safety, as well as to enhance victim support and pretrial investigations, strengthen oversight, and make prevention and response efforts more consistent across the military services. Many of these directives are included in the NDAA. For months, I've been meeting weekly with the department's senior leadership to personally review our prevention and response efforts and progress and ensure that all of these initiatives are being implemented to the fullest extent, and I will continue these weekly meetings.

As I and all the leaders of this institution have said, sexual assault is a stain on the honor of millions of military men and women, a threat to the discipline and the cohesion of our force, and we will not allow this to stand. This is not who the men and women who serve this country are. DoD looks forward to continuing to work with the president and Congress as we continue our relentless work to eliminate sexual assault from our ranks.

Finally, I want to thank the leaders in Congress for their work to pass the Defense Authorization Act, which, in addition to its important sexual assault prevention and response provisions, also extends critical pay and benefits for our troops, helps us to restore military readiness and continue critical modernization efforts, among many other important provisions.