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National Guard leadership called as witnesses in Congressional hearing on Sexual Assault

On January 19, 2022, General Daniel R. Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Brigadier General Charles M. Walker, Director of the Office of Complex Investigations, spoke in a Congressional hearing with the Subcommittee on Military Personnel Hearing on the Jurisdiction, Investigation, and Prosecution of Sexual Assault and Harassment in the National Guard.

Representative Jackie Speier chaired this hearing and pointed out one of the many instances where the National Guard failed to properly respond to Lieutenant Colonel Teresa James’ reporting of sexual harassment on her subordinates. This situation did not end there, the inspector general substantiated her complaint of retaliation by her change of command for standing up for her troops. Representative Jackie Speier also stated that sexual assault reports have jumped from 173 in 2009 to 607 in 2019. What was missed in this hearing was that the Department of Defense nor the National Guard Bureau have not calculated prevalence of sexual assault or harassment, this was only done for the active duty components.

For everyone’s understanding, whenever there is an unrestricted report by a national guard (even reserve) service member for any sexual assault incident occurring on any duty other than title 10, the investigating responsibility falls on the local civilian authorities. Title 10 duty is basically a federal activation for deployment or various missions. The instances that do not fall under title 10 are drill weekends, unit annual training, or various other training courses.

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General Daniel R. Hakanson

What was concerning about this hearing was that General Hokanson stated that they did not implement any recommendations of the Department of Defense’s Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military. The given reason was because of funding and lack of resources in order to implement, and they are still working on how to implement the recommendations. The second concerning issue was that Brigadier General Walker did not realize that sexual harassment was added to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice when the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 became law on December 27, 2021. It is unclear how the National Guard would handle sexual harassment as an official crime. Thankfully the issue of sexual harassment was spoken at length between the generals and the congressional officials, and it appears there will be more to work out after this hearing.

Lastly the Congressional officials became very alarmed when they find that the Office of Complex Investigations are only brought in to investigate when the command’s Adjutant General refer the case to them. This leaves victims out in the cold without options, especially if the chain of command has a conflicted interest with the accused.

So please share your concerns with your Congress people.

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