Former Senator Chuck Hagel was grilled on the issue of military sexual assault during his hearing. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand asked that Hagel provide “real leadership…that fights for military service members and families.” Hagel pledged that “It is not good enough to say ‘zero tolerance.’ The whole chain of command must be accountable for this.” Hagel was also grilled about other issues and was asked by Senator Blumenthal about providing leadership on this issue.
For Service Women’s Action Network, Hagel’s testimony was considered very good, even though it was over shadowed by so much of the rest of his testimony. For the most part, Hagel was all but thrown into a fire by his former Republican colleagues.
Hagel made mention of the barriers that exist regarding the reporting of sexual violence, and announced his support for an Air Force pilot program to provide legal representation to survivors. SWAN noted that “in a recently released GAO report, complaints of sexual assault can easily result in improper disclosure of victims’ confidential information, necessitating zealous intervention on their behalf.”
Former Marine Captain and SWAN Executive Director Anu Bhagwati stated “It’s an urgent time for decisive leadership at DOD. We need a Defense Secretary who will continue to move the military forward in the elimination of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the ranks and implement the repeal of Combat Exclusion. We sincerely hope Hagel is ready to work with DOD and advocacy groups on these issues.”