Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, delivered the following opening remarks at a hearing on the implementation of recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military.
Rep. Gallagher’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Chairwoman Speier.
I share your concern that the Department has wasted valuable time in addressing key challenges facing servicemembers, their leaders, and our military.
The Department of Defense Independent Review Committee was created by the Biden Administration to evaluate the handling of sexual assault, harassment, and victim support in the military.
Some of the commission’s recommendations are worthwhile but others are deeply problematic.
The Department has used the IRC to legitimize a wave of new regulations with minimal involvement from the legislative branch. DOD’s press releases and testimony highlight that IRC recommendations “have or are being implemented wherever possible”.
Unfortunately, that implementation has come with minimal planning, arbitrary goals, and little regard to staffing requirements.
I was troubled to learn that the Department has plans to hire nearly 2,000 so-called “prevention workforce” staffers over 7 years while there’s still no coherent plan for a new prevention program.
The impetus behind these new hires is, as it was explained to us, concerning new sexual assault prevalence data.
Recent DOD survey data shows that the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact has increased from 6.2% to 8.4%. Moreover, it indicates that over 60% of sexual assaults go unreported.
That same data also shows that servicemember trust in the military justice system has plummeted in the last two years after being stable for a decade.
There was a nearly 30% drop in key metrics centering around leadership, privacy, and trust in military justice.
This is an alarm bell.
I’m concerned that we have torn down, rather than built up, the role of leaders at ground level in supporting and embracing victims.
In being leaders at all.
We need policies that give victims and leaders clarity. But funneling victims of trauma into cold, clinical, bureaucratic programs divorced from their leadership may not always be the best answer.
Leaders on the ground are best positioned to rebuild this sense of trust, security, and privacy.
This committee needs to know if those leaders are empowered to act or encouraged to take a hands-off approach to helping victims.
Driving the perception that leaders aren’t involved or don’t care.
I am also concerned that burn out among professionals who support victims is also on the rise.
Apparently, much of this burn out was driven by COVID restrictions that prevented in-person victim services. Hopefully some of that pressure will ease now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted.
Now, DOD is pressing ahead with a massive military justice and prevention workforce hiring plan.
All without delivering a clear plan for what those new hires intend to accomplish, how the roles of uniformed personnel will change, and how these changes will impact military career paths.
The administration’s standard response of “more bodies, more powerpoints, more offices” does not fill me with confidence.
I hope to learn today that the Department has a coherent plan for responding to these treads.
Thank you, madam chair.