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Friday, January 27, 2023

GAO Tells Army to Improve Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Program

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the U.S. Army’s program for preventing and resolving sexual harassment and sexual assault needs to be improved.

The Army estimates that 40,000 soldiers were sexually harassed and 6,700 soldiers were sexually assaulted in 2018. However, GAO has found that only a fraction of them reported their experiences.

The Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program has policies to prevent, respond to, and resolve incidents of sexual harassment and assault. But GAO found that program implementation is hindered by disjointed policy, among other things. Key provisions related to the SHARP program are spread across multiple Army guidance documents, creating confusion for SHARP personnel. Long-standing efforts to consolidate SHARP policy into a single regulation have been delayed due to competing priorities, according to SHARP program officials. 

Several factors limit the Army’s oversight of command SHARP programs, the watchdog said. A 2019 reorganization decreased SHARP Program Office staff by half, eliminating dedicated key positions and limiting the office’s ability to conduct oversight functions. Further, GAO found that the office lacks visibility over program funding and staffing. 

In addition, two issues limit the Army’s ability to gauge program effectiveness. First, GAO found that none of the SHARP program’s performance measures fully exhibit key attributes of successful performance measures. SHARP personnel identified the number of reported incidents as a key measure, but it is neither clear nor objective. An increase in reports may indicate either increased trust in the program or an increase in incidents, indicating a lack of effectiveness. Second, GAO found that the Army has not systematically evaluated the SHARP program for effectiveness, despite prioritizing such an effort since its inception in 2009. 

GAO is making nine recommendations, including that the Army expedite and establish a timeline for the issuance of a consolidated SHARP regulation, design its oversight structure to address identified challenges, develop a suite of performance measures, and develop and implement a continuous evaluation plan. The Army concurred with these recommendations.

Read the full report at GAO

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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