By | July 8, 2021

By Jeff Lake

Following the April 2020 murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood at the hands of another soldier, the military was forced — thanks to organizing by her family and the resulting public outcry — to appoint an independent commission to investigate conditions at Fort Hood[1].

The Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (FHIRC) was formed, comprised of five members, led by the former head of the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division and four former military members. The committee was augmented by five former FBI agents, most of them former military members as well.

The committee conducted personal interviews, group interviews, prepared confidential surveys, set up a hotline and had in-person meetings with civil rights organizations, local mayors, local law enforcement and local district attorneys. The committee also conducted an in-person meeting with the Guillen family.

The Committee released a 136-page report of its findings in December, 2020[2]. This report should be required reading for all those concerned about the current state of the U.S. military and what it is doing to those who enlist in it. The findings are truly shocking, and unfortunately confirm the worst fears of activists and counter-recruiters about the pervasive abuse and neglect of soldiers by their superiors.

SHARP implicated

A major focus of the report is Fort Hood’s administration of the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Program (SHARP). The FHIRC made nine specific findings – five of which implicated this program. These are:

  • Finding #1: The implementation of the SHARP Program at Fort Hood had been ineffective due to a command climate that failed to instill SHARP Program core values below the Brigade level.
  • Finding #2: There is strong evidence that incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Fort Hood are significantly underreported.
  • Finding #3: The Army SHARP Program is structurally flawed.
  • Finding #5: The mechanics of the Army’s adjudication process involving sexual assault and sexual harassment degrade confidence in the SHARP program.
  • Finding #9: The command climate at Fort Hood has been permissive of sexual harassment / sexual assault.

The features of sexual assault and harassment reporting have been discussed in previous issues of On Watch and are detailed in the MLTF’s self-help guide, Challenging Military Sexual Violence: A Guide to Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Policies in the US Armed Forces for Servicemembers, MSV Survivors and Their Advocates, available on our website[3].

At a basic level, the program allows a servicemember to report sexual assault and to obtain assistance through a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator or Victim Advocate.  A servicemember is also supposed to receive a Special Victim’s Counsel (SVC) – an Army lawyer to provide legal advice and representation. Servicemembers may file a restricted (confidential) or unrestricted report, and there are provisions for expedited transfers and reassignments. Separate procedures allow servicemembers to make complaints about sexual harassment through the Military Equal Opportunity program.

The FHIRC found that the SHARP Program at Fort Hood was “barely functional within the enlisted ranks.” It went on to find: “The end result has been a SHARP Program that appeared to be compliant on the surface, but was hollow and lacking attention, day-to-day implementation, broad acceptance by the enlisted Soldiers, and full inculcation into the culture and character of the Fort Hood community.”

In what it called the “foundational underpinnings” of this finding, the FHIRC stated the following:

1.1. During The Review Period of 2018-2020, Fort Hood Leadership Knew Or Should Have Known Of The High Risk of Sexual Assault And Harassment at Fort Hood.

Here, the Committee cited numerous published reports of the problem dating back years. The report stated, “Fort Hood was identified as a high-risk installation for sexual assault as far back as 2014. . . . Fort Hood was identified as having the highest possible sexual assault risk score for installations for women and men in 2016, with an assigned risk level of 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, with higher scores indicating a higher risk.” Given this reporting, the FHIRC concluded that it was not addressed. The report concluded, “Unfortunately, a ‘business as usual’ approach was taken by Fort Hood leadership causing female Soldiers, particularly, in the combat Brigades, to slip into survival mode, vulnerable and preyed upon, but fearful to report and be ostracized and re-victimized.”

1.2. There Was Widespread Lack Of Knowledge Of Basic SHARP Reporting Methods And The Right To Special Victims’ Counsel.

The Committee pointed to surveys showing that basic knowledge of the SHARP program ranged from 55% to 41% across various units at Fort Hood. The FHIRC concluded that, “These are dismal figures and should have alerted the command that basic knowledge of the SHARP Program was lacking in these units, and especially within the junior enlisted ranks.”

1.3. There Was Universal Fear Of Retaliation, Exposure And Ostracism For Reporting SHARP Violations.

The report stated the following:

The FHIRC survey across all Fort Hood units asked several questions about retaliation and the answers of the 31,612 respondents were consistent with the DEOCs surveys. Among enlisted and women, the responses were again the least favorable. For example, 28% (1,644) of women believed that a person would be ostracized for filing a sexual harassment complaint; 22% of women (1,297) believed a reporter would be blamed for causing problems and 18% of women (1,045) felt that a person who intended to file a sexual harassment complaint would be discouraged from moving forward. With regard to sexual assault the percentages were 27%, 20% and 17% respectively.

The section summed up these numbers as follows: “These numbers reflect a widespread lack of knowledge and confidence in the system, and they signal an increased risk of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the lower enlisted ranks where of 88% of the violations occur and the highest numbers of victims and subjects are found.”

1.4. Review And Analysis Of The Mandated Sexual Assault Review Boards Revealed An Emphasis On Form Over Substance.

The Sexual Assault Review Board (SARB) is mandated by the Army to identify issues regarding SHARP implementation. Here, the committee reviewed the SARB records and found that, “many of the Fort Hood units were seriously deficient in mandated basic and refresher SHARP training.” The Committee found that SARB meetings generally lasted for an hour or less and were only designed to meet basic DoD mandated requirements.

One finding that stands out here was as follows:

The Committee also determined that SARB meetings were not conducted in person from December 2019 through February 2020. After the Vanessa Guillen case became public, however, the meetings began to focus almost entirely on reducing the number of active sexual assault cases reflected in the DSAIDs, which at the time numbered over 1,000.

1.5. The SHARP Program Was Understaffed, Undertrained And Under-Resourced During Most Of The Review Period.

The FHIRC noted various deficiencies in staffing. For example, “At the beginning of FY 2019, eight of the 21 brigades were classified as yellow due to one missing SARC, three missing VAs, four VAs or SARCs lacking appointment orders, eight lacking training and one lacking system access. This represented a 72% readiness level.”

Even more shocking, despite a Pentagon budget of over 750 billion dollars PER YEAR, the Committee found the following regarding the state of resources provided to the SHARP program at Fort Hood:

Besides staffing, there were other issues identified during the review that involved SHARP resources and properly equipping SHARP personnel to effectively discharge their duties. Many did not have mobile phones or internet access in their offices. The 3CR placed their Regimental SHARP office in a tiny windowless room with no phone or internet access. Few had access to official vehicles to meet victims and transport them to the hospital or for follow up services. There were minimal resources or funding for training aids and training in general. SHARP personnel had to pay for all these items out of their personal funds or use their personal mobile phones and vehicles.

1.6. There Was A Pervasive Lack Of Confidence In The SHARP Program Among Soldiers.

The FHIRC report stated the problem plainly:

The extensive interactions that the Committee had with Soldiers at Fort Hood demonstrated a wholesale lack of confidence from the vantage point of those whom the SHARP Program is designed to protect. The FHIRC determined that this pervasive lack of confidence had a detrimental impact on reporting and other critical aspects of the program. This lack of confidence partly stemmed from a widespread perception revealed during interviews and surveys that SHARP reports were not treated with confidentiality and Soldiers feared retaliation in some form should they file a SHARP-related incident report. . . . the inevitable conclusion is that the SHARP Program at Fort Hood failed to protect and serve the people who need its protection and services the most.

As will be familiar to activists who have been working on the issue of sexual assault and harassment in the military, the Committee affirmed the structural problems that continue to exist and prevent any real solution. The report stated, “The main factors affecting confidence in the SHARP Program were fear of retaliation, lack of confidence in leadership’s ability to effective address sexual assault or sexual harassment, lack of confidentiality, and lack of confidence in the outcome. The individual interviews also uncovered an unacceptably high number of unreported instances of sexual assault and harassment.”

1.7. Group Interviews Of Representatives Of Fort Hood Units Revealed That Implementation Of The SHARP Program At Fort Hood Did Not Effectively Reach The Troop/Company Levels.

The Group Interviews section of the report was perhaps the most illuminating as to what is going on at Fort Hood. The soldiers themselves spoke eloquently about the toxic culture and the ineffectiveness of the SHARP Program.

The report stated:

The overwhelming majority of these interviewees lacked confidence in the SHARP reporting system and believed that a justifiable fear of retaliation, ostracism, embarrassment and breach of confidentiality greatly inhibited report sexual harassment and sexual assault. A clear and convincing majority felt that responses/investigations that resulted from reports took too long and often the perpetrator appeared back in the unit or a nearby unit. A very large number of Soldiers commented that the SHARP Program essentially took a back seat to other priorities, and SHARP personnel were not good trainers. It was uniformly believed that SHARP VAs were not the best Soldiers and expendable, therefore were assigned SHARP duties.

For example, 8 of the 10 groups made up of 40 to 50 Soldiers each in the ranks of E-1 to E-4 (444 Soldiers in total) reported a sense of hopelessness with the SHARP reporting process. Most reported they had been exposed to senior NCOs acting inappropriately toward someone they know, and they were aware of multiple incidents of retaliation against the victim by both the unit and by senior NCOs. Soldiers were ostracized and treated as the problem when they reported. Many in this rank expressed concern that there were no real consequences for offenders; ‘the victim gets all of the hardship’; and, there was a complete lack of confidentiality for the reporting process.

The section went on:

Soldiers in all 10 sessions expressed doubt that anything would happen to an offender. Multiple Soldiers told stories of NCOs or higher leadership protecting each other. Even in the groups that did not think their particular units had problems provided multiple accounts of knowing someone in another unit that had experienced sexual assault and/or sexual harassment.

An overwhelming number of Soldiers in this rank believe if someone reported a SHARP complaint, their career would be over. Most Soldiers did not know who their SHARP Representatives were.

Finally, the ugly reality of a military culture dominated by men was exposed:

The importance and relevance of designing the personal interviews to focus heavily on female Soldiers was reinforced by what FHIRC members observed during these group interviews. When female Soldiers spoke up about their concerns, they were frequently shut down and essentially drowned out by the male Soldiers. There were many incidents when a courageous female Soldier would speak up regarding her experiences with the SHARP Program or flaws in the program, only to be contradicted and even ridiculed by other male members in the group in front of both the interviewer and the JAG Officer annotating responses. This dynamic exposed the hardened attitudes of a number of male Soldiers toward female Soldiers and the SHARP Program in general.

The responses of the male Soldiers primarily revealed a satisfaction with the status quo and their belief that it is incumbent on female Soldiers to adjust to the male environment since they volunteered to join the Army.

Massive underreporting

The second finding of the FHIRC dealt with underreporting of sexual assault at Fort Hood. This finding was based on surveys submitted by Soldiers at Fort Hood as well as interviews. An example of the survey responses was as follows:

Some of the most compelling evidence comes from the 20-question survey that was a mandatory exercise across all units assigned to Fort Hood. Over 31,000 responses were submitted rendering the results credible and persuasive. By way of example, underreporting was captured through question 13 of the survey which requested a yes or no response to the following: ‘In the past 12 months I observed a situation I believe was sexual assault.’ Of the 31,612 respondents, 1,339 responded yes. This is a stark number when considering that the SHARP Program at Fort Hood recorded only a total of 185 of unrestricted and 32 restricted reports of sexual assault incidents on Fort Hood in FY 2019 and 103 and 16 respectively as of the end of August FY 2020.

Further, Question 12 of the FHIRC survey asked respondents to answer yes or no to the question, ‘In the past 12 months I observed a situation that I believe was sexual harassment.’ Of the 31,612 respondents, 2,625 answered yes. In contrast, only 36 formal and informal sexual harassment reports were filed at Fort Hood in FY 2019, 35 in FY 2020. Even if one were to significantly discount the number of positive survey responses this is compelling indicator that reports of both sexual assault and sexual harassment were grossly underreported.

Structural flaws

The finding that was perhaps most surprising was that the Army SHARP Program is structurally flawed. This admission, while not news to activists, is stunning coming from a panel made up of military personnel. The critique presented was thorough and far ranging.

3.1. By Design, SHARP Military Professionals Are Assigned Via Borrowed Military Manpower.

In this section the FHIRC contrasted the assignment of SHARP personnel with other assignments in the Army. These are governed by regulation and are visible Army-wide, unlike those assigned to the SHARP Program.

3.2. SHARP Assignments are Unlike Other Career Broadening Opportunities.

Here, the Committee pointed out that “service within the SHARP Program is not functionally a broadening developmental opportunity.” Clearly the Program is not a priority within the Army.

3.3. Considerable Time Is Required To Develop SHARP Military Professionals.

The Committee found that, “A SFC/E-7 SARC that starts at the Brigade does not have an institutionally supported path forward to serve as a SARC at echelons above the Brigade. As a direct result, the Army does not increase or grow the institutional knowledge, experience and expertise of dedicated SHARP Professionals over time.”

3.4. Aside From Personnel Assignment Problems, Further Structural Problems Frustrate The Efficacy Of The SHARP Program.

In a fascinating conclusion to this section of the report, the FHIRC reflected on how the military is neglecting the needs of its soldiers. The Committee concludes:

The FHIRC observed no uniform system of addressing, from recruitment throughout the lifecycle of a Soldier, how the Army develops the ‘whole’ person, thereby helping each Soldier recognize the value of the warriors with whom they serve. It is readily apparent that the notion of considering the well-being of the whole Soldier is within the contemplation of the Department of Defense. The recently published DoD Policy on Integrated Primary Prevention of Self-Directed Harm and Prohibited Abuse or Harm is a strong step in the right direction. The Army would benefit tremendously from genuinely embracing steps like this.

Given the apparent increase in Adverse Childhood Experiences in recent generations, leaders must recognize that today’s recruits and newest leaders may need ‘more’ in terms of focus on the character of a professional warrior. Past training approaches must be updated to inculcate from day one the dignity, respect, and inclusion demanded from Soldiers serving in today’s Army.

This was a stunning admission that male soldiers are not trained or monitored to give their female counterparts the dignity, respect and inclusion they deserve. This is the “structural problem” that will always “frustrate the efficacy of the SHARP Program.”

Adjudication and management failures

Another finding related to the Army’s adjudication process and how it degrades confidence in the SHARP Program. Specific points were as follows:

5.1. Long Delays In The Process Of Investigation And Adjudication Of Sexual Assault Cases At Fort Hood Were So Prevalent That Victims And Potential Victims Lost Confidence In The SHARP Program.

The FHIRC noted that even basic reporting on the length of time sexual assault cases take to complete is lacking. The report states:

Neither the III Corps SJA Office nor the Ford Hood CID office were able to produce data regarding the time lapse between the filing of a report of sexual assault to final adjudication. Only the III Corps SHARP Office was willing and able to conduct even a rudimentary analysis of the overall time lapse based upon a request for information by the FHIRC. Worse, it appears that no specific office is assigned the responsibility of routinely tracking the aging of sexual assault and related sex crime cases.

An example of the delays in the process was the length of time it takes to appoint a SVC in sexual assault cases. The report recounted the following:

As of the date of this report, there are just four trained full-time SVCs on Fort Hood, despite a total of 269 unrestricted sexual assault reports in 2018 and 220 in FY 2019. In fact, Fort Hood has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest percent of Soldiers reporting on-post sexual assault. . . . Fort Hood was not able to produce any data on the length of time it took to appoint an SVC, but with only four SVCs, it is reasonable to believe that anecdotal stories of periodic backlogs are not fictional.

5.2. Victims Of Sexual Assault Reported That They Were Not Kept Informed.

This finding speaks for itself. It is not surprising given the lack of SVCs discussed above.

5.3. There Was Widespread Lack Of Awareness Of The Right To A Special Victim Counsel.

Here, the Committee noted the following:

A review of DEOCS data revealed that when Soldiers were asked whether they were aware of the SVC and the role they play, approximately 35% of Fort Hood respondents answered the question incorrectly in the 2017 to 2019 timeframe. Of the Soldiers responding, E1 to E3 respondents answered incorrectly about 50% of the time.

5.4. Soldiers Lacked Confidence In Military Protective Orders

Put simply, “The issuance of an MPO does not necessarily mean that the victim will never see the accused again.”

5.5. Soldiers Feared That The SHARP Program Might Incentivize False Reporting.

In this section, the FHIRC went out of its way to emphasize that false reporting is very rare but the perception that it is common remains. The Committee stated:

Additional evidence that this fear is unfounded lies in a review of 647 individual interviews and surveying 1,817 Soldiers using a group interview format, where just two Soldiers claimed to have been on the receiving end of a false SHARP report, and neither career was destroyed. FHIRC is not aware of a single substantiated report from a Soldier on the receiving end of an invented SHARP report. Still, this perception was not uncommon and has a potent and degrading influence on the confidence that Soldiers place in the SHARP Program. The fear that women lie about sexual assault is not unique to the military and certainly not to Fort Hood. However, Soldiers should be made aware that all credible studies show that false reporting of sexual assault is rare, and that no realistic incentives exist for Soldiers to file a false report.

Other Issues

Beyond the analysis of the SHARP Program at Fort Hood, the FHIRC addressed a number of other issues adversely affecting soldiers stationed there. The following are important excerpts from the report:

Sexual Assaults

In a section of the report dealing with crime problems at Fort Hood, the FHIRC examined the problem of sexual assault at Fort Hood. The Committee stated the following:

By comparing survey-estimated sexual assault prevalence rates to reported sexual assaults in fiscal year 2018, the DoD SAPRO found that only approximately 38% of victimized service members in the Army report their sexual assault.

Overall, less than one percent (0.66%) of first term Soldiers at Fort Hood reported an unrestricted, on-installation sexual assault during their first assignment (3.16% of female and 0.16% of male). These rates are higher than the average report rates for all divisional posts (0.44% overall, 2.30% for females, and 0.11% for males) both with and without controls.

More disturbing, among Soldiers with the rank of Sergeant to Master Sergeant (E5 to E8), Fort Hood has the highest non-violent felony rates as compared to similar posts. Sex crimes and AWOL offenses, while not statistically different from other divisional posts, are still high. This information was corroborated by group and individual interviews conducted by the FHIRC. Many interviewees pointed out that NCOs were the worst sexual assault and sexual harassment offenders.

Once again, interviews of the soldiers themselves proved to be the most devastating parts of the FHIRC report. Some examples:

During the confidential interviews with female Soldiers of 3CR and 1CD, many spoke of the culture at Fort Hood, which they feel exhibits a total disregard and disrespect for female Soldiers. Some female Soldiers said they have come to believe the Army only wants females ‘on paper or to show numbers’ but ‘now that we are here, they really don’t want us.’ A female E-4 stated ‘[Fort Hood] is the worst place I have ever been.

and

An E-7 reported sexual harassment and/or sexual assault is ‘almost like and initiation to Fort Hood.’ This E-7 said ‘in my Command, I believe sexual harassment happens every single day.’ The E-7 advised ‘nobody stops it; leaders turn a blind eye or they themselves are the offenders.

After listing these and similar comments, the Committee observed:

Numerous female Soldiers reported that it is a daily battle to get through the day without allowing the multiple advances from male Soldiers upset them. They explained that male Soldiers routinely, openly, aggressively and relentlessly approach female Soldiers. When Soldiers explain this to leaders they say they don’t have any way to stop that kind of behavior. The FHIRC described this to a senior installation leader who stated, ‘what can I do about it?’ This type of climate quickly develops into a hostile working environment, particularly for the junior enlisted Soldier, and particularly when leaders don’t recognize this kind of behavior as an issue.

Suicide

The Committee noted, “Fort Hood had the second highest number of attempted suicides by a large margin over other divisional posts having the 3rd or 4th highest offenses, and had the 3rd highest suicide deaths for first-term enlisted Soldiers arriving at duty station between 2015 and 2019.” The report also stated, “Aside from issues concerning Soldiers’ willingness to avail themselves of mental health assistance, a number of Soldiers reported difficulty, even when they tried. Wait times for mental health help were often prohibitive, sometimes several months or more, considering delays caused by field and training obligations.” In other words, the priority here is training, not mental health of the people being trained.

Illegal Drug Use

The Committee noted, “It was expressed frequently to Members of the FHIRC that Fort Hood’s Soldiers and families were concerned about the amount of drug use by their fellow Soldiers.” It went on to state:

Analysis using the Army’s drug testing program shows that Fort Hood’s rate of failed drug tests per administered test was statistically the highest among all Army posts, even when including control variables. Specifically, the rate of failed drug tests per administered tests was 30.5% higher than the average rate at divisional installations, and 151% higher than the rate at other CONUS installations. Of the positive UAs the presence of THC/cannabis was four times more prevalent than the next highest drug, cocaine with methamphetamine and amphetamine third and fourth respectively.

Individual and group interviews that touched over 2400 Soldiers made it absolutely clear that illegal drugs are readily available on and off the post.

Poor Housing

The FHIRC report stated:

Throughout individual and group interview sessions, Soldiers and civilians complained that many barracks, workspaces and family housing units are in poor repair and present health hazards. The most common but certainly not the only complaints include persistent mold, bug and pest infestations, lengthy wait times for needed repairs, and inadequate or non-functioning lighting.

The Committee met with one family who complained about these conditions. The family showed a reminder they received from the Garrison Commander that “family housing is a privilege, not a right.”

Equal Opportunity Issues

The FHIRC reported that they had investigated issues of equal opportunity and inclusion at Fort Hood, but were unable to make a conclusive finding.

Nevertheless, the Committee included excerpts from its surveys as follows:

Females in this unit are not respected at all. We are often taunted, teased and ridiculed for going to seek medical help for sickness injuries or other female health issues. We are often seen and verbally told that we are weaker than the males and that we should not be amongst males in a combat MOS, because we are not fit.

[T]here is so much race segregation that doesn’t allow some to feel comfortable and its blatantly obvious. Everything is a big put on or show when anyone from above shows up so nobody ever gets caught. As a Hispanic I feel like I can’t come up to soldiers of other races and get the same treatment and compassion as others would.

While it’s not sexual harassment / assault related, I have heard racist remarks that I think were not dealt with properly. Furthermore, I don’t think it is professional by the EO rep to discourage the person reporting the overt racism from properly filing a complaint, basically sweeping it under the rug.

I wake up now regretting I joined the military as a young minority female and do not feel as though I fit in with my current company. I feel like and outcast often. I come to work and just sit here and talk to no one. . . . I want to be somebody and I want to be utilized, but instead I am left to defend for myself at Fort Hood with no voice.

Safety Issues

Section 8.9 of the report was entitled: “Group Interviews By The FHIRC Revealed That Many Soldiers Felt That Fort Hood Was Not Safe.” Here again, the soldiers themselves provided a grim picture of life at Fort Hood.

The Committee reported:

Several NCOs said their Soldiers choose to go AWOL to get out of Fort Hood and said their Soldiers don’t feel like the Army values them at all. Many acknowledged that they, along with their junior Soldiers, joined the Army to escape the same type of community they now find themselves a part of in Killeen and Fort Hood. Some females reported they did not feel safe doing staff duty checks on the installation, because they are afraid of their fellow Soldiers.

The Committee then went on to quote some of the responses they received during interviews:

A large segment of the Soldiers interviewed expressed that Fort Hood leadership was not proactive in insuring a safe environment on base. One Soldier stated, ‘the military is good at training us to fight the enemy; it doesn’t seem to afford us the training to protect ourselves in our own lives.’

One group said no one feels safe on post anymore and that the command cares more about a lost sensitive item than they do about finding a missing Soldier. The feelings of some were summed up in the following statement, ‘If we lose a piece of equipment, the whole base is locked down, but if we lose a Soldier, nothing happens.’ Many Soldiers are convinced leadership does not care and that nothing is going to change. Some noted spontaneously a seeming lack of respect given to Soldiers who pass away.

The final finding was as follows:

Finding #9: The Command Climate at Fort Hood Has Been Permissive Of Sexual Harassment / Sexual Assault.

The report stated “the FHIRC has concluded that the existing command climate at Fort Hood is neither conducive to nor adequately supportive of the prevention of incidences of sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

The report went on to state, “An environment where sexual assault and sexual harassment is as insidious as it appears to be at Fort Hood portends a widespread lack of respect between and among its Soldiers.”

The report concluded the following: “It was a culture that was developed over time out of neglect and persisted over a series of commands that predated 2018. A toxic culture was allowed to harden and set.”

Conclusion

The FHIRC Report is a valuable tool for counter-recruiters, as it provides a comprehensive look at life in the military today. It is based largely on interviews with enlisted soldiers, and their accounts reveal a shocking picture of assault, harassment, suicide, crime, drug abuse and basic health and safety concerns at one of the country’s largest military installations.

In the aftermath of the report, 21 people have been disciplined or recommended for potential discipline. The Secretary of Defense has established a 90-day commission to once again look into issues regarding sexual assault in the military. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have held hearings. The Army has made changes and now investigating officers in sexual harassment cases will be from a different brigade than the subject. Debate rages on regarding whether sexual assault cases should be handled outside the chain of command.

Yet, in the end, it’s a fair question if any of the recommendations of the FHIRC or changes being debated in Congress will make any difference for soldiers, particularly women. The problem identified in the report is cultural, not legal. The culture of militarism that undergirds all military training is that soldiers are expendable in service to the mission of imperial conquest. Those who sign up to “serve” should be aware of this, and it is up to the MLTF and our allies to make sure they are.

[1] https://nlgmltf.org/military-law/2020/justice-for-vanessa-guillen-action-campaign/

[2] https://www.army.mil/forthoodreview/ and https://www.army.mil/e2/downloads/rv7/forthoodreview/2020-12-03_FHIRC_report_redacted.pdf

[3] https://nlgmltf.org/programs-and-services/military-law-library/memos/military-sexual-violence/

Jeff Lake is an attorney in private practice in San Jose, California. He is Chair of the NLG Military Law Task Force.