A House subcommittee is set to shed new light on the problem of sexual assault in the military today, when it will hear testimony on sexual assault numbers, prevention and response as part of its ongoing investigation into the issue.
“A woman who signs up to protect her country is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire,” said Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who introduced a bill this summer to increase and encourage the investigation of prosecution of sexual assault and rape cases in the military and is attending today’s hearing.
Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Michael Dominguez prohibited Whitley from attending that hearing, saying that his decision was based upon consultation with the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs and the general counsel of the DOD.
“It is inappropriate to question Dr. Whitley about the program when Mr. Dominguez, the decision maker responsible for the program and for the program’s results, is available to answer those questions,” said Cynthia O. Smith, a DOD spokeswoman, adding that while Whitley is responsible for implementing policy, Dominguez has “full accountability and responsibility.”
The decision outraged the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), who sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Aug. 12 demanding the department’s staff cooperate with the investigation into sexual assault in the armed forces. He said Whitley’s testimony was vital because the office she leads “serves as the single point of accountability for the Department of Defense sexual assault policy.”
At the hearing, Waxman questioned what the DOD was “trying to cover up” and said it has “a history of covering up sexual offense problems.” He announced Aug. 13 that the DOD had agreed to cooperate and that Whitley would be made available.