DoD Launches Independent Review on Sexual Harassment and Assault

DoD Launches Independent Review on Sexual Harassment and Assault
Photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Don Hudson/Air Force

DoD announced a 90-day independent review commission (IRC) last month to address ongoing issues of sexual harassment and assault in the ranks.


Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin formed the IRC to identify systemic problems and provide an action plan. The commission – led by Lynn Rosenthal, who served as the White House’s first-ever adviser on violence against women and co-chaired the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault – officially started March 23. It has aggressive deadlines to provide recommendations to overhaul the Uniform Code of Military Justice, improve timely investigations, and look at replacing the chain of command with professional prosecutors for complex cases.   


[RELATED: DoD Faces Difficult Path Ahead in Fight Against Sexual Assault and Harassment]


Lawmakers across the armed services committees have grown impatient with DoD’s inability to reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. Years of senior leader assurances that prevention measures would change the culture across DoD through training have arguably made the problem worse. Mandatory prevention training has a negative “check the block” reputation for servicemembers when there is a lack of accountability for the perpetrators.


“Previous well-intentioned prevention efforts have been undermined by a lack of accountability,” Rosenthal said.  


In the next 60 days, the IRC will provide recommendations on previous initiatives, such as making sexual harassment a UCMJ-punishable offense, utilizing independent investigators, and holding leaders accountable for culture and climate.


MOAA and The Military Coalition – a consortium of uniformed services and veterans’ associations representing more than 5.5 million current and former servicemembers, their families, and survivors – will engage with the IRC as part of this review. TMC’s personnel committee has previously championed goals to improve accountability, such as:

  • Establishing accountability measures for administrative and UCMJ actions resulting from sexual harassment and assault investigations.
  • Establishing a 90-day time standard for sexual harassment and assault investigations to ensure timely resolution of allegations, appropriate number of assigned investigators to meet the time standard, and to facilitate culture change across the uniformed services.


MOAA will continue to engage senior leaders to improve the climate and culture for those in uniform. Check back at for further updates on the IRC.


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About the Author

Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)
Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)

Belinsky retired in 2019 after serving 22 years, with overseas tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, and Germany. He joined the MOAA team in 2019 as Director, Currently Serving and Retired Affairs.