WASHINGTON — On Sept. 25, as part of the Department of Defense’s efforts to confront the crime of sexual assault in the military, the department announced improvements to prospective commander and senior enlisted training and a review of the initial military training environment in every service.
First, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has instituted higher standards for sexual assault prevention and response training for pre-command training. These changes are the result of a review ordered by the secretary in January 2012.
The review found that while these leaders are receiving SAPR training, the department should take specific steps to improve its quality and consistency across the services. Based on these findings, the secretary has directed the military services to:
Develop and implement standardized core competencies, learning objectives, and methods for objectively assessing the effectiveness of SAPR programs.
Provide a dedicated block of SAPR instruction that incorporates best practices including interactive instruction with vignettes, exercises, and classroom discussion.
Provide a quick-reference SAPR “Commander’s Guide” review in the classroom that personnel can then use in subsequent leadership roles.
Assess commanders’ and senior enlisted leaders’ understanding of the key SAPR concepts and skills and develop and implement refresher training to sustain skills and knowledge.
Secretary Panetta has placed a high priority on this issue and directed the military departments to report back to him on the development of these core competencies and assessment methods by Dec. 20, 2012, and that implementation of these measures start no later than March 30, 2013.
Second, Secretary Panetta has directed that each military department conduct a comprehensive assessment of all initial military training of enlisted personnel and commissioned officers to ensure a safe and secure environment.
This assessment will look across the services into several key areas including the selection, training, and oversight of basic training instructors and leaders who directly supervise initial military training for officers and enlisted personnel. The study will also look at the instructor to student ratio, the ratio of leaders in the chain of command to instructors, and consider the potential benefits of increasing the number of female instructors.
In addition, the secretary has directed all of the military services to review their internal controls to identify and prevent inappropriate behavior throughout initial military training; to evaluate student accessibility to SAPR programs; the timing, contact and delivery of SAPR related training; and the timing and effectiveness of processes for gathering student feedback.
Secretary Panetta has directed the military departments to report back to him on findings and recommendations by Feb. 8, 2013.
Together, these reviews are part of a broad, multi-faceted effort to fundamentally change the way the department confronts sexual assault from prevention, investigation, victim care, and accountability.
The men and women of the U.S. military must be able to serve in an environment that is free from the threat of sexual assault. Service members and their families must feel secure enough to report this crime without fear of retribution and commanders must hold offenders appropriately accountable.
A copy of the full text of the Evaluation of Pre-Command Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Training report and Secretary Panetta’s directives are available at http://www.sapr.mil.
The Nellis SAPR office can be contacted at (702) 652-7272.