While I believe that President Obama is, as he says, personally outraged at the large number of sexual assaults being committed in the military, it’s clear that he does not understand that he can bring an end to the problem in the relatively near term by merely exercising his authority as Commander-in-Chief and as President. Unlike most of the problems he has to deal with, he doesn’t need Congressional approval to act. Unfortunately actually taking action on a problem is not something the President seems comfortable doing much of the time, but if he wants to make an actual impact on this problem, he can do the following any time he wishes.
First, he should call the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense to his office for a meeting on resolving the sexual assault problem. He should start the meeting by firing the Chief of Staff for the Air Force on the spot for telling Congress that the sexual assault problem was partly the result of an alleged “hook-up culture”. This would get the attention of those remaining in the room. It would also make clear to everyone in the military that “blame the victim” explanations for the out-of-control sexual assault problem are not acceptable. Surely virtually all of the senior officers in the Air Force understand that blaming the perpetrator of a crime is the only way to solve the sexual assault problem, so finding a new Air Force Chief of Staff will not be a problem.
Second, the President should order the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense to implement in 30 days a system for collecting reports of sexual assaults which will result in reported assaults approximately equaling the estimated numbers. A first step would be to make all officer fitness reports include a mark for encouraging the filing of, and obtaining reports of, sexual assaults within their commands. Also, enlisted evaluations should include a positive mark for reporting any known sexual assaults whether they are a victim of the assault or not and a negative mark for failing to do so.
Third, the President should order the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense to implement revisions to the military justice system in 60 days which will result in the vast majority of reported sexual assaults resulting in a trial. Surely the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense can figure out a way to do this without violating the rights of the victim or the accused.
Then in six months, if any command does not show significant progress in the reporting of sexual assaults and the bringing of sexual offenders to trial, the President should relieve the commander of that command. The removal of a couple of senior officers for inaction will do more to bring about the end of the sexual assault problem than years of “training” for enlisted personnel.
Finally, if the President really wants to make the point that he is upset by the military’s refusal to deal with its sexual assault problem, he could order the Army to revise the death certificates which it issued for women who died in Iraq from dehydration but which for which it gave other causes because it was hiding the fact that women would not drink fluids at night for fear of having to go to the latrine during the night when they were vulnerable to being raped.