WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's hearing on sexual harassment in the Department of Defense and at Ft. Hood:
"Thank you, Chairwoman Speier and thank you for holding this hearing on such an important topic. Thank you to our panelists today for coming in and sharing their findings. I think it vitally important that we understand completely any positive or negative trends across DoD and down at Fort Hood, and I think both panels today will help us get that perspective.
"Sexual harassment is a scourge across society, rooted in ignorance and disrespect, that has no place in our military. When young men and women put up their hand and swear the oath to protect our constitution and country, they do it with the understanding, belief, that as they protect us, we will protect them – protect their dignity, honor their sacrifice, recognize and defend their professionalism. Sexual harassment, like any exploitation or maltreatment, undermines that commitment and dishonors the sacrifices they make for each and every one of us.
"When I was a company, battalion and brigade commander in the Army, I dealt with sexual harassment in my formations – and it pained me to see, all too often young female Soldiers disrespected and sometimes exploited just because of their gender. I learned the only way to counter this insidious threat was quick and decisive action at every level in the chain of command, and fighting to establish a culture of intolerance.
"Sexual harassment demeans the service of those victims who are more professional, capable and committed than those who seek to victimize them. And while true that sexual harassment is a societal problem, that doesn’t mean we can accept any lesser levels of harassment in the military and call it a victory. The military is better than that – grounded in common values that have no place for harassment, disrespect or exploitation of any service member.
"Any level of sexual harassment is unacceptable. Reporting may be trending favorably – and that is vitally important so leaders can illuminate and eradicate problems. And, prevention and response may be improving. But, any level of harassment is too much. We need to find creative ways for educating and empowering leaders at all levels, and our most vulnerable populations of service members, to shape a culture of intolerance and set conditions for effective prevention and response at every level.
"I am particularly interested in hearing from our panels, any ideas for how we can make that happen - how we can institutionalize change across DoD, because our service members deserve our full attention, and every effort we can muster to counter the corrosive impact of any level of sexual harassment.
"Thank you again to our panels. I look forward to a productive discussion today. Thanks again to you Chairwoman Speier for calling this hearing. With that, I yield back."