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President Biden’s Executive Order made military sexual harassment a crime, now what?

By: Stephanie Kalota
Founder, Veteran Legislative Voice

On January 26, 2022, advocates across the nation praised President Joe Biden when he signed an executive order that made sexual harassment a criminal offense under Article 134 in the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

More specifically for those more educated in that facet, Biden also prescribed these amendments to the Manual for Courts-Martial. The downside of this executive order is that it states that actions prior to this order would not be punishable, so there is a zero grandfather’s clause.

While this is an amazing improvement for military justice reform, it seems that advocates have more questions than answers. Some of these questions could also be applied to the House Armed Forces Committee hearing that was held on January 19, 2022, especially since the National Guard witnesses did not answer many questions there.

So, if you will allow me, I would like to put the questions out to the void. Please if you can, ask your Congress people these questions. From experience I know sometimes leaders do not realize what needs to be done until the questions are asked.

Sexual harassment is now a crime on federal UCMJ, but how does this apply to the different states’ UCMJ lists?

How would the National Guard and U.S. Reserve investigate sexual harassment as a crime? This situation could be very complicated because many states have varied processes for handling sexual harassment.

The Commander is supposed to report the sexual assault when he becomes aware. What is the fail-safe in case the commander does not act in the best interests of the victim?

Almost all services had their own taskforce on sexual harassment, assault, and suicide, what were the results? Where are they?

Does the National Guard Bureau have the authority to fire the state commander?

If the local police do prosecute sexual assault or harassment, what is expected of the National Guard and Reserve?

Why hasn’t the Department of Defense, Reserve, or National Guard calculated sexual assault or harassment prevalence?

Have the Reserve or National Guard surveyed or investigated how often commanders do and do not report sexual assault to civilian authorities? For reference, look into the Army Reserve 416th Theater Engineer Command in 2020 and 2021.

Don’t put up with non-answers, shrugs, or “I don’t know.” Keep pushing and call your elected officials.

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