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Defense Dept. faces questions over pace of implementing military sexual assault reform

The Pentagon has said it intends to have all of its sexual assault reforms fully implemented by 2028.

WASHINGTON — Reports of sexual assaults across the U.S. military jumped by 13% between 2020 and 2021, according to the latest data from the Department of Defense (DoD).

The data shows an all-time high of women experiencing unwanted sexual contact, at 8.4%. For men, it was the second-highest figure, at 1.5%.

The DoD established an Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military in February 2021 to provide recommendations on how to improve the military's approach to how sexual assault is handled.

"We do not take this mission lightly," Gilbert Cisneros, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said. "We know that this is about protecting our service members. It's about taking care of them."

Cisneros said the department is well underway implementing the independent review commission's recommendations.

"We need to institute a cultural change and let people know this type of behavior, it's not acceptable and it won't be tolerated anymore, And that is really what we are working to do."

But members of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel members at a hearing Wednesday were unimpressed with the pace of progress being made.

"The situation is increasingly dire. The crisis of military sexual harassment and sexual assault continues unabated," said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California)

"The standard response from the administration of more bodies, more power points, more offices quite frankly does not fill me with confidence," said Rep Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin). "In my opinion, we don't have a clear plan delivered by the DoD for what these new hires intend to accomplish, how the roles of uniformed personnel will change or how these changes will impact military career paths."

The DoD has said it intends to have all of its sexual assault reforms fully implemented by 2028.

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