U.S. Army SHARP initiatives

Today’s blog post is from Dr. Christine Altendorf, director, U.S. Army Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) Program.

As the holidays are approaching, we continue to push hard with SHARP initiatives and are watching closely as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 14 is being debated on the Senate floor.  There are several amendments which could impact our program so we are intensely tracking the progression of this important bill. We continue to have weekly updates with Secretary of Defense, Hon. Chuck Hagel and also brief Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond Odierno regularly on the program.  We are making great strides with our initiatives, but now the task is to determine the effectiveness by developing proper metrics and analyses.

Director, Army Sexaul Harassment Assault Response Prevention Program

Director, Army Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention Program

In FY13, there was a 50% increase in total reported sexual assaults (2133) from FY12 (1423); 85% were Unrestricted and 15% (318) were kept Restricted. Of the unrestricted reports made in FY13, 58% were Service Member on Service Member and 64% occurred on post.  Sexual assault is widely understood to be one of the most underreported crimes.  The recent increase in reports may be an indicator of increased trust in our leaders and overall confidence in the Army’s SHARP Program and the military justice system. 

Last month, I mentioned the SHARP Summit which will be held 28-29 January. The Summit is entitled “Achieving Cultural Change: Restoring the Trust” with a theme of Victim Advocacy.  In a recent update, Gen. Odierno approved our path forward and official invites should be out soon.The attendees will include four-star officers with their Command Sergeants Major/Sergeants Major, three and two-star Commanders and Command Sergeants Major and select brigade and battalion command teams.  We will have updates and discussion from Army Senior Leaders and will have two panels with subject matter experts focused on victim care and treatment, and victim response.

There will also be a session for commanders to provide a report about their specific SHARP activities.  We intend to video teleconference the panel discussions and selected remarks to the SHARP Program Managers in the field.

Another area that we have been devoting a substantial amount of time to is the Response Systems Panel (RSP).  The RSP is an NDAA-directed independent review and assessment of the systems used to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate crimes involving sexual assault and related offenses to recommend how to improve the effectiveness of such systems.  The panel is composed of nine members, five of whom are appointed by Secretary Hagel and one member each appointed by the chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and U.S. House Armed Services Committee (HASC). A public hearing was held on Victim Services in early November at which I gave an Army overview. We were fortunate to have a SHARP program manager and a survivor from the field speak on panels as well.  On November 20, U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, addressed the subcommittee on Commander Accountability and on November 21, Carolyn Collins represented us on another panel.  We have also been responding to over 100 RFIs so that the RSP can develop a draft report of recommendations to Congress.

As a follow-up to last month, a GOMO Sends was developed that describes the SHARP pilot schoolhouse.  The intent is to professionalize the SHARP positions and allow development beyond that of the 80 hour credentialing course.  This will lay the groundwork for a follow-on permanent school.

In the legal arena, the Office of the Judge Advocate General (OTJAG) has been extremely engaged in responding to a August 14, 2013 directive from Sec. Hagel instructing the Services to establish a special victim’s advocacy program and the requirement to use Judge Advocates as Article 32 investigating officers.  OTJAG has been doing complete coordination throughout their chain, but I wanted everyone to have an understanding of these actions.  You can view the memos at the links listed below from the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh to the Sec. Hagel that describe our process in dealing with these two initiatives. (memos can be viewed only if you have CAC-access).

Finally, I was able to visit U.S. Army Material Command last week and spend a day deep diving into their SHARP Program.  I was encouraged at the senior leader engagement and the way they conduct their sexual assault review boards.  They also performed an extensive study of all their MSCs with surveys and focus groups and are working with commanders to analyze and address results.  I look forward to them sharing some of this with you at the Summit.

That should do it for this month.  Have a great Thanksgiving and thanks for your focus and attention!