Army accepts 'scathing indictment' about sexual harassment
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September 11, 1997
Web posted at: 9:26 p.m. EDT (0126 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sexual harassment and discrimination are pervasive throughout the U.S. Army, cutting across lines of rank, race and gender, according to a 10-month investigation released Thursday.
The panel that conducted the largest-ever probe of sexual harassment and discrimination in the Army found that rank-and-file soldiers "uniformly do not have trust and confidence in their leaders" on these issues.
But investigators also concluded that more serious incidents of sexual assault and abuse -- such as the rapes of female recruits that sent one drill sergeant from the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland to prison -- are comparatively rare.
"What happened at Aberdeen was an aberration," said Secretary of the Army Togo West. "Sexual abuse is not endemic throughout our Army."
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The revelations of alleged widespread sexual abuse of female recruits by drill sergeants at Aberdeen are what triggered the Army's investigation. In their investigation, panel members met with 35,000 soldiers and commanders at 59 Army installations.
Harassment is 'commonplace'
The report offered a searing portrait of an Army where sexual harassment and discrimination are "commonplace."
Commanders were accused of ignoring problems and not taking steps to stop inappropriate conduct, which the chairman of the panel, Maj. Gen. Richard Sigfried, said most often "took the form of crude and offensive behavior."
Sigfried said investigators found sexual harassment "everywhere we went." The study's authors reported that this climate is so pervasive that many soldiers have come to accept it as a normal part of Army life.
Both West and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer vowed to eradicate harassment, discrimination and abuse.
"We will continue to come down hard on it, wherever we find it," Reimer said. "And we will stamp it out."
In an effort to move against the problems highlighted by the study, the Army announced that it will make these changes.
- Basic training will be extended by one week so recruits can spend more time on ethics and values.
- Background checks and psychological testing of drill sergeants will be stepped up.
- Officers will be added to more closely supervise drill sergeants, and a three-star general will be appointed as a training watchdog.
- A new human relations action plan will revamp the Army's equal opportunity programs, making women more aware of their rights to report harassment or discrimination in promotion.
But the Army panel rejected calls to segregate female soldiers from their male counterparts during training. Currently, about 14 percent of the Army's 480,000 soldiers are women.
Reaction: 'Not a pretty picture'
White House spokesman Mike McCurry said President Clinton believes the actions being taken by the Army will help prevent future sexual misconduct. He said the president "views with concern all allegations of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct."
Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the lone woman on the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a statement saying Thursday's report was a "scathing indictment of the climate and leadership to permit sexual harassment to permeate all levels of the Army."
"It clearly is not a pretty picture," said Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat who sits on the House National Security Committee. "I commend the Army for taking a hard, comprehensive look at how soldiers behave towards each other."
"The message that has to go out loud and clear is that everyone is on the same program, everyone has training, everyone is held accountable. There must be leadership, or this problem will never be solved," she said.
Reprimanded general: 'I accept responsibility'
Army officials also said career-ending letters of reprimand or lesser admonishment had been given to eight officers and enlisted leaders at Aberdeen.
Citing the official privacy act, West declined to name those who had received letters of reprimand or lesser letters of admonition, but officials said one letter went to Maj. Gen. Robert Shadley, former commander of the scandal-plagued Aberdeen training school.
The officials, who asked not to be identified, said Shadley, who was transferred in June to the Army's Forces Command headquarters at Fort McPherson, Georgia, was appealing the letter in his personnel file.
In a statement released at Fort McPherson Thursday, Shadley said, "I was commander when the problem came to light, and I accept full responsibility for the decisions I made and the actions I took while in command."
But he stressed that "we took immediate action to notify the Army leadership of the problem and initiated an exhaustive investigation to determine the extent of the problem."
Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre and Reuters contributed to this report.