September 28, 2021

News

News Network

Sexual Harassment and Assault: Guidance Needed to Ensure Consistent Tracking, Response, and Training for DOD Civilians

16 min read
<div>The Department of Defense (DOD) has taken steps to track reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault involving its federal civilian employees, but its visibility over both types of incidents is hindered by guidance and information-sharing challenges. While employees may not report all incidents for a variety of reasons, DOD also lacks visibility over those incidents that have been reported. For example, from fiscal years 2015 through 2019, DOD recorded 370 civilian employees as victims of sexual assault and 199 civilian employees as alleged offenders. However, these data do not include all incidents of sexual assault reported over this time period. Specifically, based on DOD guidance, examples of incidents that could be excluded from these data include those involving civilian employee victims (1) occurring in the continental United States, (2) employed by DOD components other than the military services, such as defense agencies, and (3) who are also military dependents. Without guidance that addresses these areas, DOD does not know the extent to which its civilian workforce has reported work-related sexual assault worldwide. Number of Department of Defense Federal Civilian Employees Recorded as Victims or Alleged Offenders in Reported Sexual Assault Incidents, Fiscal Years 2015-2019 While DOD has developed policies and procedures to respond to and resolve sexual harassment and sexual assault incidents involving federal civilian employees, gaps exist. For example, DOD issued guidance in June 2020 directing components to establish anti-harassment programs, but it lacks details regarding how such programs should be structured. Without clarifying guidance, components can establish programs that do not align with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance for model anti-harassment programs. Additionally, GAO found that DOD civilian employees' ability to make restricted reports of sexual assault—confidential disclosures that do not initiate official investigations, but allow the victim to receive DOD-provided sexual assault support services—varies across components. According to DOD officials, they have not taken action to resolve this variation due to conflicts with federal statute, among other things. By reporting to and requesting any needed actions from Congress to resolve any conflicts with statute, the department can alleviate such inconsistencies and minimize legal risks for DOD components. With nearly 900,000 federal civilian employees around the world, DOD has responsibilities for preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault within its workforce. In fiscal year 2018, DOD estimated that about 49,700 civilian employees experienced sexual harassment and about 2,500 civilian employees experienced work-related sexual assault in the prior year. House Report 116-120 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's prevention of and response to sexual harassment and assault involving DOD federal civilian employees. GAO's report examines, among other things, the extent to which DOD has (1) visibility over such reported incidents, and (2) developed and implemented policies and procedures to respond to and resolve these incidents. GAO reviewed policies and guidance; analyzed program data from fiscal years 2015 through 2019; interviewed officials at a nongeneralizable sample of five military installations; evaluated DOD training materials; and interviewed DOD, service, and civilian officials. GAO is making 19 recommendations, including that DOD issue guidance for comprehensive tracking of civilian work-related sexual assaults, enhance guidance on the structure of anti-harassment programs for civilians, and report to and request any needed actions from Congress on the ability of civilian employees to make restricted reports of sexual assault. As discussed in the report, DOD generally concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov.</div>

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has taken steps to track reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault involving its federal civilian employees, but its visibility over both types of incidents is hindered by guidance and information-sharing challenges. While employees may not report all incidents for a variety of reasons, DOD also lacks visibility over those incidents that have been reported. For example, from fiscal years 2015 through 2019, DOD recorded 370 civilian employees as victims of sexual assault and 199 civilian employees as alleged offenders. However, these data do not include all incidents of sexual assault reported over this time period. Specifically, based on DOD guidance, examples of incidents that could be excluded from these data include those involving civilian employee victims (1) occurring in the continental United States, (2) employed by DOD components other than the military services, such as defense agencies, and (3) who are also military dependents. Without guidance that addresses these areas, DOD does not know the extent to which its civilian workforce has reported work-related sexual assault worldwide.

Number of Department of Defense Federal Civilian Employees Recorded as Victims or Alleged Offenders in Reported Sexual Assault Incidents, Fiscal Years 2015-2019

While DOD has developed policies and procedures to respond to and resolve sexual harassment and sexual assault incidents involving federal civilian employees, gaps exist. For example, DOD issued guidance in June 2020 directing components to establish anti-harassment programs, but it lacks details regarding how such programs should be structured. Without clarifying guidance, components can establish programs that do not align with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance for model anti-harassment programs. Additionally, GAO found that DOD civilian employees’ ability to make restricted reports of sexual assault—confidential disclosures that do not initiate official investigations, but allow the victim to receive DOD-provided sexual assault support services—varies across components. According to DOD officials, they have not taken action to resolve this variation due to conflicts with federal statute, among other things. By reporting to and requesting any needed actions from Congress to resolve any conflicts with statute, the department can alleviate such inconsistencies and minimize legal risks for DOD components.

Why GAO Did This Study

With nearly 900,000 federal civilian employees around the world, DOD has responsibilities for preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault within its workforce. In fiscal year 2018, DOD estimated that about 49,700 civilian employees experienced sexual harassment and about 2,500 civilian employees experienced work-related sexual assault in the prior year.

House Report 116-120 included a provision for GAO to review DOD’s prevention of and response to sexual harassment and assault involving DOD federal civilian employees. GAO’s report examines, among other things, the extent to which DOD has (1) visibility over such reported incidents, and (2) developed and implemented policies and procedures to respond to and resolve these incidents. GAO reviewed policies and guidance; analyzed program data from fiscal years 2015 through 2019; interviewed officials at a nongeneralizable sample of five military installations; evaluated DOD training materials; and interviewed DOD, service, and civilian officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making 19 recommendations, including that DOD issue guidance for comprehensive tracking of civilian work-related sexual assaults, enhance guidance on the structure of anti-harassment programs for civilians, and report to and request any needed actions from Congress on the ability of civilian employees to make restricted reports of sexual assault. As discussed in the report, DOD generally concurred with the recommendations.

For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov.

More from:

News Network

  • Washington Tech Executive Sentenced for Covid-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Washington state tech executive was sentenced today in the Western District of Washington to two years in prison for perpetrating a scheme to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 disaster relief loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
    [Read More…]
  • Businessman Sentenced for Foreign Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme Involving PetroEcuador Officials
    In Crime News
    An Ecuadorian businessman living in Miami was sentenced today to 35 months in prison for his role in a $4.4 million bribery and money laundering scheme that funneled bribes to then-public officials of Empresa Pública de Hidrocarburos del Ecuador (PetroEcuador), the state-owned and state-controlled oil company of Ecuador.
    [Read More…]
  • United States Files Complaint to Forfeit Iranian Missiles and Sells Previously-Transferred Iranian Petroleum
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced the filing of a complaint to forfeit two shipments of Iranian missiles that the U.S. Navy seized in transit from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to militant groups in Yemen, as well as the sale of approximately 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum that the United States previously obtained from four foreign-flagged oil tankers bound for Venezuela. 
    [Read More…]
  • Suspending and Terminating the Asylum Cooperative Agreements with the Governments El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Swedish National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Defense Budget: DOD Has Adopted Practices to Manage Within the Constraints of Continuing Resolutions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO found that the Department of Defense (DOD) and the military services' obligations and acquisitions are limited during a Continuing Resolution (CR), but they have some practices in place to minimize the effects. Specifically, GAO found that for selected appropriations' accounts for fiscal years 2017 through 2020, the military services tended to obligate, (i.e., make a legal commitment to pay for goods or services), a lower percentage of their total annual obligations in the first quarter of the fiscal year—when DOD is most likely to be operating under a CR—as compared with the other quarters (see figure). Military Services' Average Obligations by Quarter of Operation and Maintenance Appropriations, Fiscal Years 2017–2020 Note: Percentages may not add due to rounding. Although DOD officials reported acquisitions were constrained by CR provisions that restrict starting new programs and production rate increases, the programs GAO reviewed were able to avoid delays or cost increases during the fiscal years with CRs. The military services have instituted some practices to minimize the effects of CRs, including initiating service contract start dates after the first quarter of the fiscal year and postponing nonessential purchases and training to later in the fiscal year. DOD officials stated both that the repetition and incremental planning required during a CR is not an effective or efficient way to operate, but that preparing for and operating under CRs have become routine in nature. GAO identified three activities directly related to preparing for and operating under CRs—developing legislative anomaly proposals (i.e., requests for authority beyond the standard CR provisions), creating spending plans for various CR scenarios, and adjusting contracts to reflect CR funding availability. DOD civilian hiring generally slowed during CRs. GAO's analysis of DOD civilian hiring data from fiscal year 2017 through 2020 found that, on average, fewer civilian personnel were hired per day during CRs than during non-CR periods. For fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2020, DOD hired on average about 200 civilians per day during CR periods as compared with about 250 people per day during non-CR periods. Why GAO Did This Study For 11 of the past 12 fiscal years, DOD has operated under a CR for some part of the fiscal year. CRs provide funding for agencies to continue operating when Congress has not enacted its regular appropriation acts before the beginning of the new fiscal year. From fiscal years 2010 through 2021—with the exception of fiscal year 2019 during which there was no CR—DOD has operated under CRs ranging from 76 to 216 days. DOD officials have stated publicly that delays in knowing when and how much funding will ultimately be available for the fiscal year hampers the military services' ability to accomplish key mission requirements and carry out management functions. The conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review the effects of CRs on DOD. This report examines, among other things, (1) the effects of constraints on the military services' spending and acquisitions during CRs, and what practices they use to minimize these effects; (2) how DOD personnel prepare for and operate under CRs; and (3) DOD's hiring of civilian personnel during CRs. GAO reviewed DOD's CRs, the military services' quarterly obligation reports, and DOD civilian personnel hiring data for fiscal years 2017 through 2020; obtained information from DOD and military service financial management officials; and interviewed officials from a nongeneralizable sample of major defense acquisition programs and other defense organizations. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or FieldE1@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • DRL FY19 Supporting Transitional Justice in Burma
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Bureau of Democracy, [Read More…]
  • Senior State Department Officials Previewing Secretary Pompeo’s Travel to France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Anniversary of Protests in Iran
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Rebuilding and Enhancing U.S. Refugee Resettlement Programs
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Former Medical Director of Suboxone Manufacturer Indivior Sentenced in Connection with Drug Safety Claims
    In Crime News
    Timothy Baxter, the former medical director of Indivior PLC, was sentenced today in federal court in Abingdon, Virginia, to six months of home detention and 100 hours of community service in connection with the company’s marketing of an opioid drug.
    [Read More…]
  • Medicaid: CMS Needs More Information on States’ Financing and Payment Arrangements to Improve Oversight
    In U.S GAO News
    States and the federal government share in financing Medicaid, a health care program for low-income and medically needy individuals. States finance the nonfederal share with state general funds and other sources, such as taxes on health care providers and funds from local governments. GAO's analysis showed a change in how states finance their Medicaid programs. In particular, states relied on provider taxes and local government funds for about 28 percent, or $63 billion, of the estimated $224 billion total nonfederal share of Medicaid payments in state fiscal year 2018—7 percentage points more than state fiscal year 2008. Nonfederal Share of Medicaid Payments from Provider Taxes and Local Government Funds, State Fiscal Years 2008 and 2018 Note: Percentages do not add up due to rounding. Furthermore, GAO estimated that states' reliance on provider taxes and local government funds decreased states' share of net Medicaid payments (total state and federal payments) and effectively increased the federal share of net Medicaid payments by 5 percentage points in state fiscal year 2018. It also resulted in smaller net payments to some providers after the taxes and local government funds they contribute to their payments are taken into account. While net payments are smaller, the federal government's contribution does not change. This effectively shifts responsibility for a larger portion of Medicaid payments to the federal government and away from states. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—which oversees Medicaid—collects some information on states' sources of funds and payments, but it is not complete, consistent, or sufficiently documented, which hinders the agency's oversight. For example, CMS does not require states to report on the source of the nonfederal share for all payments. Absent complete, consistent, and sufficiently documented information about all Medicaid payments, CMS cannot adequately determine whether payments are consistent with statutory requirements for economy and efficiency, and with permissible financing, such as the categories of services on which provider taxes may be imposed. Medicaid cost $668 billion in fiscal year 2019. GAO has previously reported on concerns about states' use of various funding sources for the nonfederal share. Although such financing arrangements are allowed under certain conditions, they can also result in increasing the share of net costs paid by the federal government and decreasing reliance on state general funds. GAO was asked to review the sources of funds states used for Medicaid and the types of payments made to providers. This report describes states' reliance on provider and local government funds for these arrangements; the estimated effect of these arrangements on the federal share of net Medicaid payments; and the extent to which CMS collects information on these arrangements. To do this work, GAO reviewed CMS information; administered a questionnaire to all state Medicaid agencies; analyzed the estimated effects of reliance on provider and local government funds; and interviewed CMS officials, as well as Medicaid officials in 11 states selected, in part, on Medicaid spending and geographic diversity. The Administrator of CMS should collect and document complete and consistent information about the sources of funding for the nonfederal share of payments to providers. CMS neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation, but acknowledged the need for additional financing and payment data for Medicaid oversight. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or yocomc@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Operation Legend: Case of the Day
    In Crime News
    Each weekday, the Department of Justice will highlight a case that has resulted from Operation Legend. Today’s case is out of the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Operation Legend launched in Milwaukee on July 29, 2020, in response to the city facing increased homicide and non-fatal shooting rates.
    [Read More…]
  • Louisiana Doctor Indicted for Illegally Dispensing Over One Million Doses of Opioids and for $5.1 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in New Orleans, Louisiana, returned an indictment today charging a Louisiana physician for his role in distributing over 1,200,000 doses of Schedule II controlled substances, including oxycodone and morphine, outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose, and for maintaining his clinic for the purpose of illegally distributing controlled substances. Today’s indictment also charges the physician with defrauding health care benefit programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, of more than $5,100,000, given that the opioid prescriptions were filled using health insurance benefits.
    [Read More…]
  • Foreign-Language Training Companies Admit to Participating in Conspiracy to Defraud the United States
    In Crime News
    Two providers of foreign-language services, Comprehensive Language Center Inc. (CLCI), based in the Washington, D.C., area, and Berlitz Languages Inc. (Berlitz), based in New Jersey, were charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating competitive bidding for a multi-million dollar foreign-language training contract issued by the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2017, the Department of Justice announced today. 
    [Read More…]
  • Judges Bring Students and Their Families an Inside Look at The Bill of Rights
    In U.S Courts
    Students and parents across the Midwest gathered around computer screens set up at kitchen tables, desks, and couches to join federal judges and volunteer attorneys in an educational celebration of the Bill of Rights in advance of its Dec. 15 anniversary.
    [Read More…]
  • Laredo man sentenced for marijuana smuggling operation
    In Justice News
    Read full article at: [Read More…]
  • National Bio and Agro-defense Facility: DHS and USDA Are Working to Transfer Ownership and Prepare for Operations, but Critical Steps Remain
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken steps to plan for and implement the successful transfer of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) from DHS to USDA for ownership and operation. (See figure.) The facility is to house state-of-the-art laboratories for research on foreign animal diseases—diseases not known to be present in the United States—that could infect U.S livestock and, in some cases, people. The departments' steps are consistent with selected key practices for implementation of government reforms. In addition, USDA has taken steps to prepare for NBAF's operation by identifying and addressing staffing needs; these steps are consistent with other selected key practices GAO examined for strategically managing the federal workforce during a government reorganization. However, critical steps remain to implement the transfer of ownershp of NBAF to USDA and prepare for the facility's operation, and some efforts have been delayed. Critical steps include obtaining approvals to work with high-consequence pathogens such as foot-and-mouth disease, and physically transferring pathogens to the facility. DHS estimates that construction of NBAF has been delayed by at least 2.5 months because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA officials stated that, until the full effects of delays to construction are known, USDA cannot fully assess the effects on its efforts to prepare for the facility's operation. In addition, USDA's planning efforts were delayed before the pandemic for the Biologics Development Module—a laboratory at NBAF intended to enhance and expedite the transition of vaccines and other countermeasures from research to commercial viability. A November 2018 schedule called for USDA to develop the business model and operating plan for the module in 2019. Officials stated in May 2020 that USDA intends to develop the business model and operating plan by fiscal year 2020's end. Construction Site of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) as of November 2019 and an Artist's Rendering of NBAF When Complete USDA's efforts to date to collaborate with DHS and other key federal or industry stakeholders on NBAF have included meeting regularly with DHS officials to define mission and research priorities, developing written agreements with DHS about DHS's roles and responsibilities before and after the transfer, and collaborating with the intelligence community, as well as with relevant international research groups and global alliances, on an ongoing basis. These efforts are consistent with selected key practices for interagency collaboration, such as including relevant participants and clarifying roles. Foreign animal diseases—some of which infect people—can pose threats to the United States. USDA and DHS have been developing NBAF to conduct research on and develop countermeasures (e.g., vaccines) for such diseases, as part of a national policy to defend U.S. agriculture against terrorist attacks and other emergencies. DHS is constructing NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas. DHS originally assumed responsibility for owning and operating NBAF. However, USDA will carry out this responsibility instead, following an executive order from 2017 to improve efficiency of government programs. Construction is expected to cost about $1.25 billion. GAO was asked to review issues related to development of NBAF and USDA's plans for operating it. This report examines (1) efforts to transfer ownership of NBAF from DHS to USDA and to prepare for the facility's operation and (2) USDA's efforts to collaborate with stakeholders. GAO reviewed DHS and USDA documents and interviewed key department officials and various stakeholders. GAO also compared the departments' efforts on NBAF with selected key practices for government reforms and collaboration. For more information, contact Steve D. Morris at (202) 512-3841 or morriss@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Taxpayer in Panama Papers Investigation Sentenced to Prison
    In Crime News
    A former U.S. resident and taxpayer was sentenced in the Southern District of New York to four years in prison for wire fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, false statements, and other charges.
    [Read More…]
  • The United States Has Repatriated 27 Americans from Syria and Iraq Including Ten Charged with Terrorism-Related Offenses for Their Support to ISIS
    In Crime News
    The International [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.