Pentagon Admits Anti-Harassment Policies Spotty
by Doreen Brandt
(Washington) Four years after the Pentagon issued an Anti-Harassment Action Plan to address anti-gay harassment, and a full year after a Congressional inquiry into the matter, the Department of Defense has issued it first formal review of its efforts to curb anti-gay harassment in the armed forces. In a letter to Members o f Congress, Under Secretary of Defense David Chu said implementation of the policy “varies” by service.
“The Department of Defense’s response is feckless,” said C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “In four years, the Pentagon has failed to produce evidence of full compliance with its own Anti-Harassment Action Plan, and it has failed to measure and report the level of anti-gay harassment in the field.”
The Pentagon adopted the Anti-Harassment Action Plan after the July 1999 murder of Private First Class Barry Winchell at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The two soldiers who killed Winchell thought he was gay. Soldiers later testified that Winchell endured daily taunts for four months prior to his murder. The resulting plan calls for annual, rank-appropriate training for all military personnel, a clear definition of harassment , accountability for those engaging in or condoning harassment, and annual reporting on each Service’s implementation of the plan.
In his letter to Congress, Under Secretary Chu states that “measuring the true outcomes of a policy or training is difficult,” despite the DOD Inspector General having done just that in 1999. In December of that year, the Department of Defense Inspector General conducted a survey of 72,000 troops to assess level of anti-gay sentiment in the filed. The Inspector General found that 80% of respondents had heard derogatory, anti-gay remarks during the past year, and that 37% of respondents had witnessed or experienced targeted incidents of anti-gay harassment. It also found that nearly 10% of respondents reported witnessing or experiencing anti -gay physical assaults.