By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2009 – The Defense Department has made progress in improving its response to the needs of sexual assault victims, but needs to do more, a special task force has determined. The Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services has turned its report over to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for review. But while noting progress, the congressionally mandated report also called for the department to do more to address the spectrum of sexual assault prevention and response. “Our recommendations highlight the need for institutional change to more effectively prevent sexual assault and address related issues,” said Louis Iasiello, the task force co-chair. “Doing so is not only ethically and morally correct, but also essential to military readiness – all the more critical at this time.” The first recommendation the task force made regarding the Defense Department’s Sexual Awareness Prevention and Response Office was to elevate its oversight to the deputy secretary of defense until the program meets established institutional goals. Among other recommendations are changing the budgeting process to overcome inconsistent funding among the services, strengthening the policy and oversight functions of the office, and conducting more rigorous oversight of military service training programs.