Sexual Assault:

Better Resource Management Needed to Improve Prevention and Response in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve

GAO-17-217: Published: Feb 27, 2017. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 2017.

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What GAO Found

The Army National Guard (Guard) and Army Reserve (Reserve) have implemented sexual assault prevention and response programs, but face challenges in areas such as staffing, budget management, and investigation timeliness that may hinder program implementation.

  • Staffing: The Guard and the Reserve have staffed their sexual assault prevention and response programs, but their use of full-time and collateral-duty personnel has produced sizeable workload disparities. For example, the Guard allots two full-time staff to each state and territory, which provides Rhode Island—a state with about 2,000 soldiers—the same number of staff as Texas, which has about 18,600 soldiers. Similar imbalances exist in the Reserve, with one full-time staff at one command responsible for about 9,000 soldiers located in 16 different states, while the one full-time staff member at another command is responsible for 300 soldiers in 4 states. Officials said that collateral-duty personnel are used to mitigate workload disparities, but these positions are not always filled in the Guard, and the Reserve does not know the number filled. Without evaluating their staffing structures, the Army does not know the extent of such issues and their effect.

  • Budget Management: The Guard has developed budget guidance on the use of funds but has not effectively communicated it to program staff, and the Reserve has not developed or distributed this guidance to its staff. Thus, Guard and Reserve program staff do not have information needed to develop their budget allocations and help ensure the efficient use of program funds.

  • Investigation Timeliness: Data on Guard cases investigated by its Office of Complex Administrative Investigations (OCI) in fiscal year 2015 show that 57 percent, or 45 of 79 cases, took 6 to 9 months to complete; 39 percent, or 31 of 79 cases, took 3 to 6 months; and the remaining 4 percent (3 of 79 cases) took longer than 9 months. According to OCI officials, investigations take longer to complete because OCI does not have enough personnel to handle its growing caseload, which more than doubled from 2014 to 2015. The Army and the Guard have not reassessed OCI's resources since the increase in investigation requests to help ensure it has the staff needed to complete investigations within 3 weeks, as required by OCI guidance.

Eligibility for follow-up or long-term health-care services paid for or provided by the Department of Defense (DOD) varies based on a Guard or Reserve victim's duty status at the time of an assault. Victims in the Guard and Reserve must go through a process, known as a line of duty determination, to determine their eligibility for care. The Guard has established an expedited process for making a determination within 72 hours of the process being initiated. However, the Reserve's process is lengthy, and in prior work GAO found that 80 percent of these determinations were overdue. Reserve officials said they plan to include an expedited process in the new Army regulation that is being drafted; however, Reserve officials did not provide details about the planned process or documentation about how it would be implemented. Without an expedited process to provide more timely decisions, sexual assault victims in the Reserve may continue to pay for their care up front, or else face delayed access to care.

Why GAO Did This Study

Sexual assault in the Army is often discussed in terms of its incidence among active-duty forces. Sexual assault is a crime that similarly confronts the more than 550,000 members who collectively serve in the Guard and Reserve, who together reported 604 sexual assault incidents in fiscal year 2015; however, sexual assault is generally an underreported crime. Congress included a provision in statute for GAO to review sexual assault prevention and response in the Army's reserve components.

This report addresses the extent to which (1) the Guard and Reserve face any challenges implementing programs to prevent and respond to sexual assault; and (2) medical and mental health-care services are available to victims in the Guard and Reserve. GAO reviewed DOD and Army policies; administered two web-based surveys; conducted site visits to four installations; and interviewed officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making six recommendations, including that DOD evaluate program staffing structure, communicate and develop budget guidance, assess the Guard's investigation timeliness and resources, and develop an expedited process for determining Reserve eligibility for healthcare services. DOD concurred with three recommendations partially concurred with two, and did not concur with assessing Guard investigation timeliness, stating that the Army has limited authority over OCI. GAO continues to believe that actions are needed to fully address the two recommendations, and redirected the OCI recommendation to the Guard, as recommended by DOD.

For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that program staff are being used in an effective and efficient manner, and to facilitate the consideration and identification of total force solutions for staffing sexual assault prevention and response and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) programs throughout the Department of the Army, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army, in coordination with the Chiefs of the National Guard Bureau and the Army Reserve, to conduct an evaluation of staffing approaches used to administer the sexual assault prevention and response program, and consider opportunities to leverage resources across all Army components. This evaluation should include an assessment of the number and allocation of full-time and collateral-duty personnel, the fill rates for program positions, and the types of positions used.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that Army National Guard and Army Reserve program staff have the necessary information to develop their budgets and to help ensure the efficient and effective use of program funds, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Army National Guard SHARP Program Office to communicate and disseminate its guidance on budget development and execution for the SHARP program to all full-time SHARP program personnel.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that Army National Guard and Army Reserve program staff have the necessary information to develop their budgets and to help ensure the efficient and effective use of program funds, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Army Reserve SHARP Program Office to develop clear guidance on budget development and execution for the SHARP program and disseminate this guidance to its full-time SHARP program personnel.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that Army National Guard and Army Reserve program staff have the necessary information to develop their budgets and to help ensure the efficient and effective use of program funds, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Director of the Army SHARP Program Office to expand the scope of the midyear review to include monitoring and providing oversight of SHARP program expenditures at the Army National Guard state and Army Reserve command level.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that sexual assault crimes involving Army National Guard members are investigated in a timely manner, with a full investigation of the offense regardless of the reserve component or duty status of the victim, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, in collaboration with the secretaries of the military departments as appropriate, to reassess the Office of Complex Administrative Investigation's (OCI) timeliness and resources to determine how to improve the timeliness of processing sexual assault investigations involving members of the Army National Guard, and identify the resources needed to improve the timeliness of these investigations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that victims of sexual assault in the Army Reserve have timely access to medical and mental health-care services without having to pay for their care upfront, if they are eligible for care paid for or provided by DOD, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to direct the Chief of the Army Reserve to develop and implement an expedited line-of-duty determination process for Army Reserve sexual assault victims, along with a method for tracking the length of time to make the determinations. When developing this process, the Chief should ensure that it allows soldiers who wish to file a confidential or restricted report to go through the determination process without disclosing their circumstances to the chain of command.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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