The Defense Department Inspector General is reviewing the Army’s harassment prevention and response programs, according to an official notice. The move comes months after an Army audit criticized the service’s ability to identify and implement actionable recommendations on preventing similarly harmful behavior.
The Defense Department inspection aims to “determine the effectiveness of the Army’s actions to prevent and respond to harassment of soldiers, including sexual harassment, bullying, and hazing, in accordance with Federal and DoD policies,” according to the notice letter. In addition to interviews with Pentagon-based Army officials, the Inspector General planned to visit Fort Cavazos, Texas, and Fort Liberty, North Carolina, as part of the review.
Although the notice does not specify why the Pentagon’s top inspector general will investigate the programs, one of the Army’s own internal watchdogs highlighted years-long problems with how the service manages research intended to improve the programs. The Army Audit Agency report “Research of Soldiers’ Harmful Behaviors” was completed on Jan. 30. The Project on Government Oversight first reported and publicly published the audit.
While the ongoing inspector general probe deals primarily with different forms of harassment, the Army “harmful behaviors” audit also included studies on sexual assault, substance abuse, domestic abuse and suicide.
“Without stronger governance, the Army will continue to lack full awareness of its research on soldiers’ harmful behaviors,” auditors warned, before concluding the deficit could leave the service “less able to become a learning organization with respect to preventing” such behavior.
Out of 47 service-funded research reports on harmful behaviors completed between Oct. 1, 2018 and Sept. 30, 2022, Army auditors who penned the January report found that only five offered any “actionable recommendations.” And out of the ten recommendations provided in those reports, the Army offices responsible “hadn’t taken action to implement any of them.”
The Army Audit Agency faulted the service for failing to centrally coordinate the work, too, and for lacking mechanisms for ensuring that the recommendations from the reports were implemented. Oversight officials also noted that previous audits had recommended the Army centrally govern and monitor its prevention research. But the recommendations went unheeded, auditors noted.
In response to the January report, the Army noted that of the 10 actionable recommendations, even fewer were on matters the Army could affect. But service officials agreed with its findings and committed to designating an office to oversee and coordinate future research on how to prevent and respond to harmful behaviors. According to the audit, the Army’s Integrated Prevention Strategy (which Army Secretary Christine Wormuth signed earlier this year) also officially recognized the need to coordinate such efforts.
It’s not clear when the Department of Defense Inspector General will complete and publish its report.
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.