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Action Needed to Reduce Domestic Violence in the Military

Jun 29, 2006

Because the Department of Defense (DOD) does not gather adequate information and keep complete records on domestic violence incidents, it cannot fully assess and address the problem, finds the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a report released in May. The GAO found that DOD has insufficient data on the disciplinary actions taken by military commanders against service members charged with perpetrating domestic violence, and that more work is needed to establish confidentiality for victims and to train personnel to respond effectively to abuse.

The DOD’s domestic violence database does not capture data from all law enforcement systems. Without complete data, Congress and the Pentagon lack the “information needed to understand the magnitude of the domestic violence problem, identify domestic violence trends and address emerging issues,” the GAO report says.

It recommends that DOD “Take actions to address domestic violence data deficiencies, provide adequate personnel and a strategy for communicating its policy changes, maintain chaplain training data and establish an oversight framework.” DOD leaders agreed with most GAO recommendations, except for one that says domestic violence protective orders issued by the military should also be reported to law enforcement and family advocacy officials. The DOD cited privacy concerns as its reason to oppose that recommendation.

Congress required the DOD to establish a task force to assess the services’ response to domestic violence and recommend improvements in 2004. In the past three years, the DOD has provided $23 million to implement recommendations and made some progress in changing the military response to domestic violence, the GAO report says. In April the DOD issued a policy allowing victims to report domestic violence to specified people without notifying command.

A copy of the GAO’s full report is available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06540.pdf

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