Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promised several senators in his confirmation hearing that he would prioritize sexual assault prevention within the military in his new role, and it appears he's attempting to follow through quickly.
Per The Associated Press, Austin issued his first directive as Pentagon chief Saturday night, giving his senior leaders two weeks to gather reports on sexual assault prevention programs in the military and send him assessments of what has worked and what hasn't. "This is a leadership issue," he reportedly wrote in a two-page memo. "We will lead."
The move comes a day after he was confirmed by the Senate. The retired four-star Army general acknowledged in his Senate hearing and in the memo that the military must do a better job of handling a problem that has long existed within its ranks, and he told officials not to be "afraid to get creative" in finding ways to approach the issue.
Reports of sexual assault in the military have steadily increased since 2006, AP notes, including a 13 percent jump in 2018 and a 3 percent jump in 2019 (the data for 2020 is not yet available.) Experts believe sexual assaults remain underreported, though there's some hope that victims have grown more confident in the justice system. Read more at The Associated Press.