The results of the 2018 Report on Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Military Academies are unacceptable, and I am resolved that we will do all we can as a Department to address sexual assault in our military. In my testimony during the FY 2020 Posture Hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 19, 2019 and in my direct engagement with Senator Martha McSally, I pledged to do more, and I intend to carry out this commitment. (Martha Elizabeth McSally is a retired United States Air Force Colonel and politician who has been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Arizona’s 2nd District, since 2015 and is now a U.S. Senator.)
To that end, I am directing a full review of the investigative and accountability processes involved in sexual assault cases. Further, effective immediately, I am establishing the Sexual Assault Accountability and Investigation Task Force (SAAITF). The SAAITF will undertake this review and make recommendations that will improve existing processes to address sexual assault, while ensuring our formations, our communities, the rights of the victim and the accused, and the integrity of the legal process are protected.
Our approach to eliminate sexual assault is holistic and includes efforts to prevent this crime, support and care for our victims, and ensure a robust and comprehensive military justice process. While the immediate focus of the SAAITF will be on reforms and improvements to the military justice process, the Department will continue its steadfast efforts to prevent this crime and support our victims. I am also very mindful of the many prior DoD/Congressional Panels that have contributed to our current efforts – and the ongoing five-year effort of the Defense Advisory Committee on the Investigation, Prosecution and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces (DACIPAD).
We will ensure the efforts and work of the SAAITF complements the important work of the DACIPAD. Sexual assault impacts the entire force across all Military Services. None of us are immune to this crime and all of us are responsible. As such, the SAAITF will be co-led by Dr. Elizabeth P. Van Winkle, Executive Director of the Office of Force Resiliency, the Judge Advocates General of the Military Departments, and the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. They will report directly to me on task force progress and recommendations.
The SAAITF shall be further comprised of senior level or equivalents of the Military Criminal Investigative Organizations, a representative from the Office of the DoD General Counsel, and the Director of the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. Additional members of this task force shall be considered as required. All task force members shall be full-time or permanent part-time civilian personnel of the U.S. Government or military members.
I expect the SAAITF to identify, evaluate, and recommend immediate and significant actions to improve the accountability process, specific to the investigation and disposition of cases in which members of the Armed Forces are either victims or alleged offenders of sexual assault, while ensuring due process for both. Recommendations shall consider findings of similar previous reviews by experts internal and external to the Department, but must explore new opportunities to enhance the military justice system.
The SAAITF will provide me an interim progress report and, not later than April 30, 2019, will provide a final report that captures key recommendations addressing the investigation and disposition of sexual assault, including potential changes to policy and/or law. The Department will submit a report to Senator McSally and other members of the Armed Services Committees, identifying the initiatives the Department will undertake based on the recommendations provided by the SAAITF.
The importance of this work cannot be overstated. We have an opportunity to underscore the integrity of our military justice system and advance our capability to address sexual misconduct against the men and women of our Armed forces, while improving the readiness and lethality of the DoD. Only through diligence and innovation will we eliminate this reprehensible crime from our ranks.
Patrick M. Shanahan became the Acting Secretary of Defense on January 1, 2019. Prior to this assignment, he served as the 33rd Deputy Secretary of Defense, appointed on July 19, 2017.
Mr. Shanahan previously served as Boeing senior vice president, Supply Chain & Operations. A Washington state native, Mr. Shanahan joined Boeing in 1986 and spent over three decades with the company. He previously worked as senior vice president of Commercial Airplane Programs, managing profit and loss for the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs and the operations at Boeing’s principal manufacturing sites; as vice president and general manager of the 787 Dreamliner, leading the program during a critical development period; as vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, overseeing the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, Airborne Laser and Advanced Tactical Laser; and as vice president and general manager of Boeing Rotorcraft Systems, overseeing the Apache, Chinook and Osprey.
Mr. Shanahan is a Royal Aeronautical Society Fellow, Society of Manufacturing Engineers Fellow and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Associate Fellow. He served as a regent at the University of Washington for over five years.
Mr. Shanahan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington and two advanced degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering, and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.