November 8, 2013

Cully Stimson

Cully Stimson

Sexual assault in the military is a critical problem which detracts from the readiness of America’s armed forces.

In a major new special report, Heritage Foundation legal expert and former prosecutor Cully Stimson presents the facts and outlines solutions.

Lawmakers and the executive branch have rightly focused attention on reports of assault and have proposed some thoughtful solutions.  But the scheme proposed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) would (1) weaken the military, whose mission is to defend the nation, and (2) ultimately harm victims of sexual assault.

Stimson makes the case for several specific reforms to address the problem, like changes to the JAG Corps. And he warns that radical changes pushed by some lawmakers could undermine the order and discipline that’s critical for the armed forces.

He concludes:

Improving the already outstanding criminal justice system in the military is a noble and worthwhile cause. That unique system of justice—similar to, but distinctly different from its civilian cousin—revolves around the concept of enforcing good order and discipline in the armed forces. Arbitrarily taking commanders out of the business of enforcing good order and discipline within their ranks is not the way to better the military’s criminal justice system. Such an approach is a risky proposal that will harm victims and severely undermine a commander’s ability to enforce good order and discipline.

Rather, the prudent way to improve the military justice system is to build upon the current system, adopt those policies that enhance the delivery of services to victims and defendants alike, and develop career litigation tracks for military prosecutors and defense counsel.

What do you think policymakers should do to address this important question?

Comments (13)

Bill Wolff - November 11, 2013

The problem really is the feminization of the military and society generally. Weakness of command at the highest levels caused by political correctness and failure to recognize the natural flow of hormones in young, vigorous men and women who are forced together in highly charged situations. Typical of society in general, when rape or harassment is charged, the man will automatically be guilty. He may be, but the real culprit is the foolishness of forcing men and women to live and work together in field operations and combat.

Dr. Robert A. Zawacki - November 13, 2013

Dear People, I strongly support the comments of Bill Wolff. He has it correct. I was on the faculty of the USAFA for 9 years and served on the first committee to allow women to enter. Our office wrote the original draft for admitting women to the USAFA. While I support them at the Academies, I do not support them in combat roles or on remote assignments! Period!

Russell Drew - November 13, 2013

Congress should keep out of this issue. I agree with Mr. Wolff’s comments. In addition, the very broad range of actions that are called sexual assault needs some revision.Rape and physical abuse is one thing, but an “off color joke” or a slap on the back, or in some cases a look can trigger a claim. This needs to be treated with more common sense and not classified as sexual assault!

Greg Bilhartz - November 13, 2013

I think I have a well-informed perspective on this issue. I spent 18 months as a battalion adjutant and also commanded a 300-man company during Desert Storm. In both those roles, I had regular contact with the battalion JAG and preferred court martial charges against a number of soldiers, though none for sexual harassment (as an all-male armor unit, the occasion for that offense was much reduced, though not eliminated).
In my post-military life, I have also been witness to civilian institutions in which legal counsel took an outsize role in management decisions. In comparing the two, the military solution with the commander in charge and counsel being “just” an advisor is far the superior model. It would be a gross mistake to significantly alter the role of the commander in sexual harassment cases, as it would for any other violation of the UCMJ. The commander is there to lead and make decisions, and to take responsibility for them, right or wrong. The JAG’s role is to advise him on what is right, according to the UCMJ, but not to make the decision. Having seen what happens when the lawyers make the decisions, with no one in management prepared to gainsay them, you have leadership that is cowed and afraid to make a decision. That sort of culture will get people killed in a combat environment in a hurry.
Lt Gen Susan Helms’ handling of the sexual assault court martial in her jurisdiction is a perfect example of a commanding officer exercising her professional judgment and her discretion on a tough call. Leadership such as hers deserves acclaim in an organization increasingly under assault to soften the very traits needed to succeed and win in combat. The hand-wringing and second-guessing over her decision will almost certainly lead to injustice against other individuals as senior officers choose easy, noncontroversial decisions over the hard right. With Gen. Helms’ example, they know that making the right decision as commander could cost them their jobs and their careers. I’d rather serve with Gen. Helms than any of her critics, any day.

Virginia Faber - November 13, 2013

Bill Wolff has stated so elegantly what I know is true of the social experiment that has been forced on the military. Recognize that young men and women living and working in very close proximity are their own powderkeg.

David S. Hodes, MD - November 13, 2013

I think we may have to look at the type of man who is currently enlisting in the military. In the days of the draft, the Army was, more or less, made up of typical American males. With an all-volunteer Army, we may be attracting men who are somewhat different. They may be more adventuresome, more inclined to risk-taking, more aggressive. These are doubtless valuable traits in a soldier, but it is also possible that the percentage of men in this population who are aggressive toward women is higher. The Army must ascertain whether this is so and direct these men’s aggressions in a constructive direction . The Army must stress that it is more manly to be a defender of women than a defiler of them.

Beverly Trebes - November 13, 2013

Same sex harrasment has increased 10% or more since the repel of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the DADT repel shoud be re-repelled. Also woment should not be placed in the front lines fight.

Bill Bates - November 13, 2013

The problem is to many of the cases seem to involve senior (in rank) officers or NCOs and younger airmen, sailors, soldiers or marines who are preyed upon by them. Then, when someone is brave enough to speak up, the senior person is protected by the chain of command as being ‘more valuable’ to the Unit than the young person.
I fully admit I have never been in favor of women in combat units; but many of the women I served with were as valuable as men to the unit. IMHO, anytime anyone is charged with harassment or sexual assault; (1) they should immediately be taken out of the line of authority, (2) the victim should be removed from harms way, so that neither the perpetrator nor his (her) peers, can retaliate against them for speaking out, and (3) if the charges are substantiated with a finding of guilty, the person should be reduced in rank to E-1 (officers AND NCOs both), given a dishonorable discharge, and a LONG prison sentence. Not allowed to retire, resign or such. That would send a strong message to other immediately.
I am embarrassed that my Air Force (Retired Master Sergeant with over 24 years service), & the military in general, is allowing this to happen. There is simply no excuse for it to continue. The breakdown in fraternization rules is partly to blame also. No officer should EVER be in a social position to have access to an enlisted female. Nor should it be allowed.
Meanwhile, my daughter serves in the Navy. She has been harassed by senior chiefs while overseas. Since she has a black belt, she’s meted out physical punishment to fit the problem, and been left alone afterwards. But, it should have NEVER happened, to begin with. The “Chain of Command” did nothing even after she reported it. If I had my way, her CO, Chief PO, and every one else involved would be cashiered, reduced in rank to E-1, and tossed out with no retirement, no mustering out pay, or any thing else. It is a disgrace this happens!

Penny Bonadonna - November 13, 2013

I think “policymakers” should stay out of it and let the military deal with it. Unlike many civilians, the military commanders really do deal with these issues–they have to as required by the UCMJ. And the military, unlike many civilian counterparts, really do do what they are supposed to do. Considering the size of the military compared to the general population of the country, the problem is not as big as Sen. Gillibrand and others would have us believe. And isn’t it interesting that no one mentions that at least some of the increase in reported sexual assaults is male to male and female to female. Surprise, surprise. Most of the problems the military currently deals with stem from interference from congress and this administration. Leave them alone and let them do their job.
Bill Wolff, you are spot on.

Bill Sandelin - November 15, 2013

First get a non-military law makers out of the military courts, demand the highest standards from our military
leaders. Get politics out of the Armed Forces, get prayers and god back into our military. High Moral standards.Put ROTC back into the High Schools and Colleges. Do not change the JAG corp. Reopen the draft for everyone no exception for the elite, only grades in school and health and criminal charges may kept you out. This should be for Politician too.
Thanks Bill

Holly Chapo - November 16, 2013

Start by facing the facts. It may very well be that these sexual assaults are a result of introducing women into a situation that has been male dominated from the beginning. There is nothing wrong with accepting the fact that there are some places women just don’t belong. We are equal in terms of our natural rights but not necessarily in terms of our gifts and biological abilities. And I still say viva la difference! Perhaps policymakers should be looking for solutions in putting women in different jobs and keeping them out of harms way.

Laura Van Overschelde - November 17, 2013

I am going to tell you something that served civilization very well for CENTURIES. It was reiterated to us in the Declaration of Independence: “to assume the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind REQUIRES that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.” (Emphasis mine.).
LOOK at any graph that tracks the rise of sexual assaults incidence in the U.S. Military and you will discover it rose when dramatically when ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and even more deramatically when ‘DADT’ was abolished. EVEN IF you take out ANY moral argument from this discussion, the evidence is clear.
Long recognized is the fact that this country’s Constitution and laws were written based on the study of recognized Great Thinkers, such as Locke, Voltaire, Aristotle, etc. Their writings purveyed an adherence to a moral code that subscribed to Mosaic and the later Christian laws, ethics. Now you secularists should be finding some parallels here or you have not adequately acquainted yourselves with scientific method and theorizing.
This furthers the argument as is taught in those moral codes that man must learn to discipline himself as part of his self respect, developed in order that he can function in a society that conveys the idealism of self-respect begets respect for your fellow man. Have we lost the ideal that military disciple furthers respect for oneself in order to maintain military discipline?

Lola - April 7, 2014

In response to Bill Wolff – You need to check your facts. A mere 3% – yes, THREE PERCENT – of rapists are convicted. The notion that “when rape or harassment is charged, the man will automatically be guilty” is absurd, ill-informed, and offensive. Furthermore, to suggest that men & women serving together is the reason that rape occurs is an insult to the male sex. My dad, brother, and fiancé all served in the military – some of them alongside women – and they would be appalled to hear the blame for a rape being placed on anyone but the rapist. Men don’t rape simply because they are in close proximity to women – again, check your facts.

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