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Video: Army Secretary says Army’s sexual assault prevention program ‘hasn’t achieved its mandate’

U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy speaks about the U.S. Army's sexual assault prevention program, Nov. 19, 2020. (Maj. Audricia Harris, video/Released)
November 19, 2020

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said in a Wednesday video statement that based on his preliminary study of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee’s report, that the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, known as SHARP, “hasn’t achieved its mandate to eliminate sexual assaults and sexual harassment.”

McCarthy, who is the U.S. Army’s senior civilian official, said sexual assault and sexual harassment have “plagued our force and brought harm to our Soldiers” and, “It is abundantly clear, we must do better.”

McCarthy announced the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee would release its report on Dec. 8, detailing its findings regarding sexual harassment issues and recommendations to address the issue. The independent panel was formed in August to review the Army base’s command climate and culture after the disappearance and death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen and a number of other deaths and disappearances on the base this year.

The Army stated the panel was formed to determine whether Fort Hood’s environment and culture “reflect the Army’s commitment to safety, respect, inclusiveness, diversity, and freedom from sexual harassment.”

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In his remarks, McCarthy said, “My preliminary review of the report, recent cases, and recent media coverage, have hardened my belief that the Army’s SHARP program hasn’t achieved its mandate to eliminate sexual assaults and sexual harassment by creating a climate that respects the dignity of every member of the Army family.”

The SHARP program’s stated goals are to: reduce the stigma of reporting, protect the victim, increase prevention, investigation, prosecution and victim care capabilities, increase training and resources and refine and sustain response capability.

Here are McCarthy’s full remarks:

I am deeply saddened and concerned by the recent news reports of how sexual assault and sexual harassment have plagued our force and brought harm to our Soldiers. This topic has captivated the attention of America and our Army leaders and it is abundantly clear – we must do better.

Leaders, regardless of rank, are accountable for what happens in their units and must have the courage to speak up and intervene when they recognize actions that bring harm to our Soldiers and to the integrity of our institution. If we do not have the trust of America – nothing else matters.

Army senior leaders are in receipt of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee’s report and are reviewing its findings and recommendations. My preliminary review of the report, recent cases, and recent media coverage, have hardened my belief that the Army’s SHARP program hasn’t achieved its mandate to eliminate sexual assaults and sexual harassment by creating a climate that respects the dignity of every member of the Army family.

On December 8 we plan to release the findings with an action plan to address the recommendations.

It is clear we have significant work to do to regain our Soldiers’ trust in our Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program.