Skip to main content

tv   Natl Guard Officials Testify on Prosecuting Sexual Misconduct  CSPAN  February 1, 2022 4:34pm-5:54pm EST

4:34 pm
can live without, so wow is there for our customers with speed, reliability, value and choice. now more than ever, it all starts with great internet. wow. >> wow supports c-span as a public service, along with these other television providers, giving you a front-row seat to democracy. on thursday, the house oversight and reform committee looks at the washington football team's workplace culture, a day after the team announces its new name. watch live at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span 3, online at or watch full coverage on c-span now, our new video app. next, national guard officials testify on prosecuting sexual misconduct before a house armed services subcommittee. they talk about the process for investigating claims and how to improve accountability. this is an hour and 15 minutes.
4:35 pm
good afternoon, everyone. the hearing will now come to order. i want to welcome everyone to this hybrid hearing on the jurisdiction, investigation and prosecution of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the national guard. we will have one panel today with general daniel hokosan, chief of the national guard bureau and brigadier general charles walker, director of the office of complex investigations. both will discuss the
4:36 pm
jurisdiction of the national guard bureau, the army national guard and the air force national guard over guardsmen in their varying statuses who commit sexual harassment and sexual assault or other criminal acts. they will also address what services an benefits are available to national guard personnel who are victims of these egregious crimes. brigadier general walker will also discuss the office of complex investigations and their role in filling a gap for the state adjutant generals when local law enforcement authorities and/or federal agencies are unable or unwilling to investigate. i'm also looking forward to hearing from them their response to the findings that the independent review committee and how the national guard bureau intends to implement the irc's recommendations. the morale, the readiness and every aspect of service is poisoned each time a service member is sexually assaulted or harassed in our military.
4:37 pm
the national guard is no different. guard personnel have fought in the wars in iraq and afghanistan, aided countless civilians in natural disasters and are providing essential health care and support to fight the current covid-19 pandemic, yet they suffer from a convoluted and understaffed system of sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention programs, complex and cumbersome reporting processes and a lack of justice. the numbers are staggering, yet the data is lacking. according to the dod 2019 annual report on the sexual assault in the military, the number of reported sexual assaults in the guard jumped nationwide from 173 in 2009 to 607 in 2019. more than a 300% increase. beyond that, little data exists. i've been advocating for progress for more than ten years.
4:38 pm
those numbers don't tell even a fraction of the story. the individual stories of guard personnel caught in a web of confusing bureaucracy are harrowing. stories like the west virginia army national guard officer, then lieutenant colonel teresa james, who was raped in her hotel room by a superior officer. consistently disbelieved and retaliated against until the national guard bureau investigators finally found that the perpetrator, quote, used intimidation and fear to sexually assault her, resulting in nonconsensual intercourse, unquote. to make matters worse and because she reported her superior officer for rape, the victim was given an uncharacteristically low evaluation and retained in the guard for one year instead of the standard two years. three years later the dod inspector general found that the, quote, the west virginia guard retaliated against her for
4:39 pm
reporting that she was raped, unquote. her perpetrator faced no charges and was allowed to go on to endanger other guardsmen. lieutenant colonel james waited years to be believed, and then was medically discharged from the service for ptsd resulting from her sexual trauma. stories like this one are all too common across the national guard. extensive reporting by journalists has uncovered problems with sexual assault and sexual harassment in the national guard in many states, including florida, minnesota, pennsylvania, vermont, and wisconsin. many involving botched investigations and failure to report sex crimes to police. we are here today to pull back the curtain that has allowed this insidious rot that threatens our national security and countless lives to go unchecked and in the worse cases made the threat even more dire. no longer can the national guard
4:40 pm
hide behind their unique status. to the national guard, the spotlight of congress is on you. take care of your soldiers, take care of your airmen, stamp out sexual harassment and assault, stop the retaliation we are watching. to all the soldiers and airmen of the national guard, we have not forgotten you. my pledge to all the survivors of military sexual violence, to those who reported and were ostracized, to those who reported and faced retaliation and to all those who are afraid to report and may be suffering alone, we're on your team. and the national guard is on notice. sexual assault and harassment will not be tolerated. we pay your bills. we fund you. the game is over. ranking member gallagher, you're now recognized for your opening
4:41 pm
remarks. >> thank you, madam chair. i look forward to working with you during this upcoming cycle. last year was a whirlwind but i hope we can continue to attack our military personnel challenges in a bipartisan fashion. i agree that sexual assault and harassment are a blight on our armed forces, be they active, reserve or guard, so this is a very important hearing about the national guard bureau's effort to coordinate with states and bring federal resources to bear on tough cases. now the national guard sits in a very interesting position, which makes this a complex issue. very few guard members are in a federal service status and subject to the military justice system unless they are actually activated under title x orders. they are in their communities doing civilian jobs and are thus subject to the same laws as everyone else so for the overwhelming majority of guard members, these never cause any issue, but criminal conduct or
4:42 pm
conduct unbecoming a member of our armed forces does happen often entirely outside of any jurisdiction and guard members live under 54 different sets of state or territorial laws. congress has charged the national guard bureau and office of complex investigations with assisting the adjutants general where they won't address a guard-related crime. since 2012 oci has helped fill the gap between state and local law enforcement criminal investigations and the high standards that we apply to our service members. these cases often deal with complex legal issues and oci has worked very hard to find solutions over the last ten years. as always, there is more we could do to improve accountability and integrity in our armed forces and i look forward to hearing from the witnesses about what tools would actually improve the handling of sexual assault cases at oci and how the guard bureau can better provide crime prevention resources to the states. thank you. i yield back.
4:43 pm
>> forgive me, i'll start again. after general hockenson's remarks, each member will have an opportunity to question the witnesses for five minutes. we respectfully ask the witness to summarize their testimony in five minutes. your written comments and statements will be made part of the hearing record. let's begin and welcome our panel general daniel hockenson, chief of the national guard bureau and brigadier general charles walker, the director of office of complex investigations. thank you both for being here today. we look forward to hearing from you. please begin, general hockenson. you may have to unmute yourself.
4:44 pm
can you hear us, general. can you give us a thumbs up if you can hear us? okay. we can't hear you. why don't we move on to brigadier general charles walker and maybe in the interim you can get your technology figured out there. have someone on your staff help you. all right. brigadier general walker. >> chair speier, ranking member gallagher and all distinguished members of the subcommittee, it's my pleasure to be here today and offer testimony with respect to what the office of complex investigations brings to this. as chair speier points out, it is a poison within our ranks. the national guard at all levels is committed to eradicating
4:45 pm
sexual violence against all service members. today we hope to testify about the unique particular aspects of national guard service, which at times may create gaps in our ability to handle criminal activity within our military service, but also to reinforce the fact that these matters are being taken serious and the avenues that are available for military justice, and i'll use that not as the term of art military justice, but the fact that guardsmen and women who are serving in a nonfederalized capacity are serving as citizen soldiers and airmen, which entitles them to the same protections as any other citizen within their community, which is why local law enforcement and local prosecutors are our avenue for handling criminal activity in the national guard. certainly the general's opening statement covers the gamut of
4:46 pm
activities and situations within the guard that are subject to this hearing and i hope he'll be on shortly so he can elaborate on those things. my limited scope is as director of the office of complex investigations, which is -- this is the appropriate time i can go into the details about the office of complex investigation in the hopes that general hockenson can come onboard and give the opening statement that gives justice to exactly where the national guard is coming to you today on this issue. but as has already been pointed out in ranking member gallagher's opening, the office of complex investigation began in 2012. it is a direct outgrowth of the last time that congress was intimately involved with the military and issues of sexual assault. back in 2012, there were a number of cases in which military members had complained, and rightfully so, about the handling of the investigations and the lack of results with
4:47 pm
prosecutions related to their sexual assault cases. as a result of that, dod instructions and dod guidance was promulgated which required that commanders no longer use their indigenous or organic resources to investigate sexual assaults. and that all sexual assault allegations would be referred to military criminal investigative organizations, such as the office of special investigation for the active duty air force or cid, the criminal investigation division for the army. but unlike those active and reserve components that serve under title x, guardsmen and women do not have access to that due to their service in nonfederalized status. so to fill that gap, we created the office of complex investigation, which would help in instances where local law enforcement, which is our first line of defense against sexual
4:48 pm
violence allegations, is either unwilling or unable to investigate thoroughly those allegations. in those limited instances, the office of complex investigation steps in and provides an investigative tool for the 54 adjutants general. these investigations include only sexual assault allegations, but we're using the department of defense definition for sexual assault, which is very broad and encompassing everything from a groping all the way towards a penetrating sexual assault. we in the office of complex investigation are a centralized asset, primarily based out of andrews air force base. we provide investigative capacity, which will allow us to provide, one, a consistent ability and an ability to provide a fair and balanced report back to the state adjutant general for
4:49 pm
administrative action. that's a nuance that i have to point out. we are not a criminal investigative organization. we provide administrative investigations as a backstop so that victims and the national guard will have an opportunity to address sexual violence against its members and to remove those within our ranks who may be perpetrators in an administrative context. what we are not is a criminal context, which as you know in a criminal setting there's jail time potentially, there's central registries and other controls that our society has deemed appropriate for these type crimes. so oci is not the default for the national guard, it is merely the avenue that we resort to when local law enforcement is unable or unwilling for a variety of circumstances to adequately investigate those instances of sexual violence. and at this time, i will end my
4:50 pm
statements in hopes that general hockenson can carry forward with his more broad opening statement which encompasses all aspects of what the national guard is doing with respect to eradicating sexual encompasses what the national guard is doing to eradicate sexual violence on our force. >> general hokenson, are you live now? >> can you hear me now? >> we certainly can. >> outstanding. good afternoon. thank you for inviting general walker and i to testify before you today. in case you have not heard it directly from me already, i want to make it clear. there is no act more heinous in violating the trust of a fellow soldier, airman or anyone. the women and men who serve in
4:51 pm
your formations raise their right hand, take an oath to the constitution and step forward to fight our nation's wars and serve our communities in times of crisis. we owe them strong leadership at every level and a workplace free from the violence of assault and harassment. this is a serious problem and we recognize it as such. that is why shortly after becoming the chief of the national guard bureau, i met with our team. because despite all our efforts, we didn't seem to be making a difference. as a result, i ordered the formation of a task force composed of national guard leaders and represents from our 50 states, territories and d.c. to focus on preventing sexual assault and suicide within our ranks. over the course of the next six months as a result of the task force's in-depth examination, we identified 19 improvements for our guard's safety.
4:52 pm
these recommendations fall into six strategic areas. leader education, healthy culture, resources distribution and communication, partnerships, upon review of their recommendations, i accepted all of them. taken together they mean one thing above all. we need a greater focus on prevention to eliminate sexual assault and harassment in our formations. in addition, we're strongly engaged in the implementation of secretary austin's recommendation to help improve the national guard's unique operating environment and continue to enhance victim care and spirit. prevention starts with creating a culture of trust. our guardsman and their families must have confidence in our
4:53 pm
chain of command and victim advocacy and response services. they need to have confidence in the offices that investigate sexual assault and confidence that offenders will be held accountable. we have to earn that conference by establishing and maintaining a culture of trust at every level of leadership. we are taking action on building that culture of trust and preventing sexual harassment in our ranks. we are analyzing data that focuses on risk factors so we can directly effect those risk factors. in addition to the sexual assault and suicide task force, i also made changes to our office of complex investigations or oci. these changes included moving oci from under our general counsel office and making it a separate stand alone direct
4:54 pm
directorate. we work together to increase the number of oci investigators by 60% to reduce backlog and help survivors get results. we're also working to hire violence prevention integrators as resources become available. these officers are responsible for assessing their state guard sexual assault response programs. having a properly trained, professionalized force focused on addressing this issue helps demonstrate our commitment to eliminating sexual assault and harassment in the national guard. we're also improving prevention training for guard members and leaders at every level in our organization. in addition to better training, we're also finding ways to hold leaders accountable for the culture they create and oversee.
4:55 pm
we know the work of preventing sexual assault and harassment is a challenging process, but it is of the utmost importance. we eliminate sexual assault and harassment, we create a safe environment where soldiers and airmen can focus on their jobs which improves our readiness and ability to fight and win america's wars. our commitment is fundamental to taking care of our soldiers, airmen and their families. it's a requirement for the national guard to keep its promise to be always ready, always there. members of the subcommittee, thank you for your time. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, general. let me start off by asking you, general hokenson, what part of the independent review commission's recommendations have you not implemented?
4:56 pm
>> we actually have not implemented any at this time. we're working very closely with the services, both the army and the air force, to look at the implementation guidance and what is required to implement each of those. when you look at the over 80 recommendations, over 50 of those apply directly to the national guard and many of those do require resources that we currently don't have to implement. we're working at implementing guidance with our services, both the army and the air force, to identify those resources so we can implement them as soon as possible. >> let me ask you this. is there any process by which you are informed when a sexual harassment or sexual assault case complaint has been filed within the state national guard? >> yes, ma'am. so if you look at our
4:57 pm
directorates of the national guard, if i can take a step back from what the unit commander's responsibility is. they have to be notified within the first 24 hours of a sexual assault within their organization. they immediately link that individual up with a victim advocate to ensure they get the care and help they need. >> let me ask you this. lieutenant colonel james, he was raped by her superior in the west virginia guard, she was retaliated against. the inspector general was able to determine that. she ended up leaving after one year and she had post-traumatic stress disorder. according to the report, her assailant was never charged and
4:58 pm
continued to serve. do you know who this person is and is he still serving? >> no, chair, i do not know that, but i can get with our staff to make sure we get a full accounting from the state of west virginia. >> all right. so you're going to report back to the committee about the status of the perpetrator and what happened. >> yes. >> let me ask brigadier general. do you have -- you've seen an increase in the number of cases that have come to your attention recently. do you have enough staff to respond to those cases? >> thank you, chair.
4:59 pm
again, every year it seems to be a moving target on the number of cases. obviously with the renewed and enhanced ability to actually intake cases, we've seen a jump in cases, particularly this fiscal year, we're running ahead of what we had historically in any year already. we do have enough staff to investigate these cases. >> how many staff members do you have? >> we have 29 dedicated investigators at joint base andrews or residing in their home states as remote investigators. all of them we pair in teams of two to go out and investigate any allegation we receive. >> how many cases did you have filed last year? >> last year, i believe we had a total of 140-145 cases that oci
5:00 pm
or that we opened at oci investigations. >> you track the serial offenders? >> we absolutely do. we track all perpetrators within our database so that if we get indications from any new cases of any repeat offenders, we're able to identify those and report back to the states and then do further analytics on why, in fact, someone would be a serial offender given our current system which allows us to investigate sexual assaults at least administratively. so we are tracking statistically -- >> will you please provide the committee with how many serial predators you have? >> absolutely. >> all right. my understanding is through news reports that the guard has undertaken a number of changes to address its handling of incidents of sexual assault, including better training,
5:01 pm
increased transparency and more emphasis on prevention. among the changes to better support local units, train people and hold leaders accountable, the bureau's office of complex investigations was reorganized. however, a basic internet search for information on oci provides no publicly available information about the office, its purposes and how to contact oci officials. so how does oci ensure that members of the national guard, including those involved in or conducting investigations are aware of the office's existence? >> chair, the -- general, that's what triggers an office of complex investigation -- >> no. we want to make sure the victims know there is somewhere to go, and there's no place that they can google on the internet to find out about your office.
5:02 pm
>> well, again, our office is not the primary focus. if a crime has been committed and a sexual assault allegation, the first line of contact is with local law enforcement. that's one of those nuances. the office of complex investigation does not get involved until local law enforcement has either declined or is unable to investigate. then the determination of whether an oci investigation is appropriate is done with the general and we coordinate with the state and then open case for investigation. >> did you investigate lieutenant colonel james's complaint? >> no, we did not. >> why not? >> based on the timing, i'm not sure that the office was available at that time as a resource. i can verify that, but obviously i'm unaware at this time specifically if her case was
5:03 pm
investigated by our office based on the fact that i've read some in the press about her situation. the timing of her case may have been outside the oci window of which that would have been an avenue for her. again, we would only do an administrative investigation. no matter when that case was filed, it would have been subject to a local criminal investigation and a prosecution outside of military channels. so i can get all of the background information on that and we'll report back on all those details. >> great. thank you. my time has expired substantially. mr. gallagher, you're recognized for an additional two minutes. >> general, what is the day to day reality of your communication and cooperation with the tags the general on this issue. do you think most of them understand the importance of these cases? >> i would say that all of our
5:04 pm
generals understand the importance of this across the entire formation. when you look at my communications since i became the chief, i have a call with them every single week where we discuss any issues across the organization. and previously some of those related to this have been the education and training of our personnel. and we were able to address that right away through our personnel branch and training. i have a touch point every single week with the general. then we get together and have a guard senior leader con
5:05 pm
>> this emphasis on prevention, how prevention is key, just based on your experience with this issue, what lines of effort for prevention do you think are most promising, where you think it would be smart for us to
5:06 pm
invest more in terms of prevention activities. >> congressman, i think one of the best ways is to make sure we have the resources to have the trained personnel at the right level to really train and work with our leadership at every level from the lowest level to the highest level. part of that is making sure that our training actually has an impact where we're not just talking to people, but it's interactive and we need the intent of what that education is intended to do. and frankly it's not just making sure we follow the rules, but teaching others that respect is both ways. we have to have basically an environment with dignity and respect and it's got to be safe. we have to encourage anyone that's there, whether chain of command or not. we call this bystander
5:07 pm
intervention. we want to encourage everyone to take action if they see this occurring at any time. >> i appreciate that. sort of a related question for brigadier general walker, even though now we have a decade of experience with oci, what are your resource constraints? do you feel like you have enough investigators to meet the demands from states right now? >> thank you. really the resource issue has -- historically oci has operated with members who are on what in essence is temporary duty at oci, which are limited in the number of years they can serve outside of their states. we just got relief in that in that now we can have members implemented up to five years.
5:08 pm
that will go a long way toward us keeping our trained investigators. it's obviously advantageous to keep people there longer. now we have civilian resources. so we have hired four full-time civilian investigators and plan to hire several more so that we'll have what i call a backbone of experienced investigators that will be the continuity within our organization to either train new people or provide that leadership base that we need as people rotate in and out for their tours in oci on the military side. from a resource perspective, in the last year that general hokenson has been aboard, we've made great strides to ensuring this is an unduring mission tha
5:09 pm
that's sustainable without having to rely on volunteers for a period of time. as i sit here today with the case load we have, we can meet the investigative burden that we have. however, again, that is a moving target depending on the number of cases we get if there were to be some significant change in the volume. >> my time has expired. it's good to note what sounds like sort of cautious optimism that you're moving in the right direction. i think in the february 2017 j.o. report, in the 2018 guard report to congress and a 2018 jail report on oci, timeliness came out as an issue. the timeliness of the investigations wasn't where we needed it to be. we're interested in making sure you have the resources you need to do these investigations in a timely manner. with that, i yield back.
5:10 pm
>> the gentlewoman from pennsylvania, ms. houlahan is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you so much for the opportunity to talk to you today. general hokenson, i appreciate the chance to have spoken to you yesterday to go over some very serious concerns i've had with ongoing allegation of sexual harassment allegations. i've been working closely with madelyn dean's office since 2020. we are now in 2022. after receiving an outpouring of concern from my constituents, this case has been plagued by repeated delays as we talked about in our conversations and incomplete reporting and it's been leading many, unfortunately, to conclude it's
5:11 pm
simply being slow rolled to the point where demands for my accountability disappear. i know you share my commitment to eradicating sexual harassment and assault from the national guard, sir. i just wanted to hear your commitment that you'll look into the who shum investigation and that the investigation is concluded without any further undue delay. >> i will reach out to the adjutant general from pennsylvania. time is of the essence. >> as you know, memories fade and people change places and they're no longer availability for people to ask questions of them. sir, once the investigation is concluded, would you also please commit to me that you would review the report of investigation as well? >> yes, ma'am, absolutely. >> thank you.
5:12 pm
my next question is for general walker. i was very interested about your testimony when you spoke about the purpose and/or gins of oci. to the extent you're able to share, i'd like to understand a little more about oci's profits since initiating the investigation. the oci responded and said that after reviewing the request that they had determined that the most appropriate avenue for the investigation was this pennsylvania national guard even though there were very high ranking officers within the pennsylvania national guard who were named in many of these complaints. so the denial from oci didn't really offer us very much detail. i was hoping you might be able to offer insight as to why oci declined to take up the who shum case. >> oci has a very limited portfolio. we deal with sexual assault
5:13 pm
cases only. the information that and of course i was not there, i did not read the initial request. as best i can tell, it would be a request that would not be within our ability to investigate because we only do sexual assault. the allegations at who shum were more of the harassment type just to back up a little bit to your question about oci and how we intake and kind to have process, we only deal with sexual assault. if there are other issues going on, and often times there are other areas of misconduct happening, the states often run concurring investigations with an oci investigation. we are limited to just the sexual assault aspect. if there's other aspects such as harassment, that goes into the
5:14 pm
process that's already established that starts within the states be i think there was some confusion initially. oci is very limited. at that time oci was about to be broken off into a separate drek trait. >> i sort of anticipated that might be what was the qualifier there. >> it seems as though there is really a gap in coverage that's going on possibly in oci's mandate. i'm wondering whether or not it might make sense to investigate
5:15 pm
whether we should be broadening the purview of oci so there also is that sexual assault and harassment because it seems as if all our training is encompassing all of that and it seems like there may be a gap in coverage there. >> it's not a gap in coverage. historically harassment and assault within the military have gone down two separate tracks. harassment was never a criminal offense whereas assault was always a criminal offense. so over the years they developed on separate tracks. as you know, the active force under title ten the ucmj is undergoing changes that will make harassment probably a criminal act as well. >> actually, the time has expired. >> i apologize. i will yield back. i look forward to continuing this conversation with you and thank you so much for the time. >> brigadier general, just for
5:16 pm
your advocation, it was in the ndaa. it is now an offense under the ucmj, sexual harassment. mr. jackson is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you for holding this hearing today. i believe this is the first hearing in this subcommittee since the chairman announced her retirement. i want to extend a warm congratulations. i have a bill, the service member safety and security improvement act was signed into law last month as part of the fc 2022 ndaa. incidents of sexual harassment are not necessarily isolated incidents. if not addressed, they can lead to other serious and sometimes deadly outcome. sometimes start with a service
5:17 pm
member going missing. the service member safety and security improvement act will help address this issue by requiring military installations to install policies and procedures for reporting service members missing. promote information sharing to ensure all persons on a military installation are accounted for. i want to work with you to find a way to implement some of these best practices for information sharing with local and federal law enforcement from the national guard. what are your thoughts on implementing this type of legislation with respect to the national guard and when do you expect this committee will receive this report? >> i strongly support that. any time any of our guardsmen, although obviously we see them on our drill weekend or at annual training, any time we
5:18 pm
don't have accountability for any of them it is a significant concern for us. so anything that we can do to have resources available to track down or find out the health and welfare of these individuals as quickly as possible is something that we would absolutely support. >> thank you, sir. i hope we see the report on that in the near future. i look forward to working with you on this. i yield back. >> the gentlewoman from texas, ms. escobar is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, madam chair. many thanks to our panelists today. i want to give you some perspective on the questions i'm about to ask. i am the proud representative for fort bliss in texas here in congress and i'm also the proud representative of the safe and secure community of el paso which is right on the u.s./mexico border.
5:19 pm
this is the first hearing that we've been able to have with the national guard since some really alarming reports have been made public. and i know that our subcommittee's focus for the hearing today is around sexual assault and sexual harassment. and i'm very proud of the work we have done under the chairwoman's leadership to place and prioritize the safety and welfare of our service members really making it paramount for this committee. it is with that same perspective in mind that i'd like to ask our national guard leadership some questions about this, because i know we are all committed to the readiness of our service members. there have been some deeply alarming reports coming out of texas. we have a deployment of texas national guard through an
5:20 pm
operation called operation lone star headed by texas governor greg abbott. i'm hoping for a separate hearing around some of the really alarming reports about increased suicides, deplorable living conditions, lack of full pay, et cetera. it is my hope that this subcommittee and our committee as a whole approaches these issues in the same bipartisan manner that we have approached sexual harassment and sexual assault. with that, general, i'd like to ask you a couple questions just to clarify. can you please describe the relationship the bureau and the national guards of each state have, and in what ways does that relationship hinder the bureau's ability to exercise full oversight investigations and prosecutions? >> when we look at our relationship, so we work very closely with all of the
5:21 pm
communicators on a regular basis to make sure they are in compliance with all of the service requirements. we look at the states almost as subordinates. they are commanders of the national guard responsible for them. what we do is we stay in constant communication to identify any issues or concerns we have and see if we can help address those. because we work with all 54, if we see best practices in one state, we try and share those across the entire organization so we can make the organization better and learn from others as we go forward. ultimately we work with them to make sure they are in compliance with everything that needs to be done with respect to the services and then we assist them in any way we can on a daily
5:22 pm
basis. >> the national guard troops deployed -- while reports are deeply alarming, i am also concerned about what is not yet known, what may not be public, including concerns that i have around conditions that might further sexual harassment and sexual assault as well. are there mechanisms that the bureau can use to conduct investigations, oversight and prosecutions of these missions when our service members have been subjected to really alarming and shocking conditions such as those under operation lone star? >> in this case when we hear reports like that, we take every single one very seriously. we reach out to the leadership within that state to ask if they need help with anything.
5:23 pm
we always try to do everything we can to support them. specifically to that, i would like to hand it to general walker to add some potential legal implications on what they can do to help. >> thank you, sir. so this is one of those issues where i think the national guard, we have to be very specific. obviously the status of each member is important in how and when the national guard intervenes and at what level. that i think is the threshold issue that we run into every time there's an issue with guardsmen and how and what the bureau can do. with respect to sexual assault and sexual harassment we are constantly looking to inform the state and inform leadership on those things that are specifically triggering the environment which makes sexual assaults most likely to happen. through analytics and basic
5:24 pm
information we're gleaning from our reports, we are actively passing that information onto the adjutant general such that we can address those situations where leadership can remove those things from the environment so we can hopefully reduce and mitigate those factors that contribute to sexual assault. every time we have an incident now, we are taking great things to pull data and analyze those facts so we can replicate best practices across the 54, particularly in situations that are common to us, such as deployment. >> can you wrap up your comments please? >> general, my office will circle back with you. i want to sound the alarm, madam chair and to our panelists and to my colleagues. it is my hope we can address all of this in the same bipartisan spirit that we have worked in
5:25 pm
the past in our subcommittee. i yield back. >> the gentlewoman from michigan, ms. mclean is recognized for five minutes. >> i want to thank you all for being here today. as a member of this committee who has a national guard base in their district, it really saddens me that assault is all too common in our national guard. i want to assure all of you and all of my colleagues on this committee that i am committed to rooting out this problem. we have to address it. we have to put systems and processes in place to do better. while i'm dedicated to ensuring our national guard provides a safe and secure way for victims to come forward, which is critical so we can catch and prosecute the perpetrators of sexual violence. the only concern i really have
5:26 pm
is that we're not creating a system that is guilty until proven innocent. i want to make sure that the pendulum doesn't swing too far the other way. while i appreciate the independent review committee's recommendation for the guard, the recommendations seem to be heavily focused on prevention rather than any for actual processing or investigation of potential crimes. and there is a very important piece. prevention, yes, is critical and extremely important, but we also have to have an actual process for investigation. can you explain to me how the process for both the victim and the accused will navigate through the irc's proposed systems? >> thank you. our process right now. so obviously the default is immediately to go to local law enforcement to determine whether or not they will take a case, do the investigation and prosecute.
5:27 pm
once that is determined, if it stays with local law enforcement, it stays with them. if they for some reason do not take the case, that's where we provide an additional avenue for those individuals to pursue through administrative means through oci. so when i look at the victim, obviously the first thing -- i'll just take it from the role of the commander. is to make sure they report this immediately within 24 hours and they get a victim advocate for the victim. from there the commander has various tools at his or her disposal. they can do an expedited transfer of that individual out of the organization. they can also initiate a flag on the accused personnel file just so folks are aware there's an ongoing investigation. we're very clear that we want to
5:28 pm
make sure everyone is given due process throughout this process. what i'd like to do now is hand it over to general walker to talk about specifics of that. >> thank you, sir. again, the national guard without military criminal investigative organizations to initiative a criminal investigation, we immediately refer that to local law enforcement. after the local law enforcement investigation is complete and if it is appropriate, we will conduct an administrative investigation. i think it's important. you know, oftentimes we see in the media and other accounts where people are not happy with the results of an administrative investigation because we have very limited remedies for criminal activities. we can discharge a member, but there is no incarceration, there's no registry as a sex
5:29 pm
offender. there's none of the other institutional controls that our society deems important for sex crimes. >> can i back up for one second? >> yes. >> when you turn it over to the local law enforcement agencies, there is a for cause hearing. >> it depends on the jurisdiction. the process, again is for -- unlike under a process under ucmj, they're going to determine how that investigation and ultimate prosecution of that case, if it makes it there, will happen. so we have no visibility on what happens once we turn it over, which is part of what is the intent on active duty to take it out of the hands of commanders.
5:30 pm
>> it would follow the normal prosecution as a normal civilian would. >> correct. >> okay. thank you, sir. i appreciate your time and i yield back. >> gentlewoman from california, ms. jacobs, is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, madam chair. thank you to the witnesses for being here. general, i was pretty alarmed to hear that you have not fully implemented even one of the recommendations the irc report highlighted. in light of that, i wanted to follow up on a 2017 j.o. report that recommended the chief of the national guard bureau reassess timeliness to determine how to improve the timeliness of sexual assault investigations involving membered of the
5:31 pm
national guard and the resources needed to improve that. has such an assessments happened? and what has been done to improve the speed of oci investigations? my colleague ms. houlahan brought up the timeliness of a specific case, but this is a broader issue that has plagued oci for some time. >> when i became the chief in late 2020, one of the first things i did was sit down with our general counsel and look at oci. i, like many others, was frustrated. we seem to put a lot of time and effort into this but it never seems to move the needle in a positive direction. i spoke to the adjutant general. i said we have a backlog. the way to address that backlog is we need investigators.
5:32 pm
working with them i was able to increase the number of investigators by 60%, identifying folks within the organization that have the capability to serve as investigators. that allowed us really to get at this backlog. general walker, frankly, has done admirable work related to that. the othering thing i found is it was really a subordinate organization. i felt one way to show the entire national guard just how important this is is to create a stand alone organization and put a general officer in charge. thankfully we have folks like general walker, who is also a federal judge who really took that organization and streamlined it and was able to get investigators regionally so they could travel quicker to a
5:33 pm
lot of these locations. i don't want to steal general walker's thunder. >> thank you, sir. really i think general hokenson has hit the essence. attention to the problem is what general hokenson has brought to the office of complex investigations. i will tell you everyone talks of timeliness, but i want us to think about the national guard and what we're doing. we have a force that's 75 to 80% part-time. we are full-time investigative capability, but we also depend on the victim's counsel, the defense counsel and the state to have the witnesses available when we do an investigation. often times we're limited to drill periods, which happen once a month. for the national guard, three days is actually 45 days equivalent given the availability of our witnesses and the availability of us to get on site and do investigations.
5:34 pm
so it's inherent in what we do that our timelines don't match what you see on active duty or elsewhere in the military because of the unique nature of national guard service, which we may not have control over individuals that we need to question until we show up for drill. so one of the factors that we'll never be able to fully address is how long it takes in some instances to start an investigation. secondarily, those resources are limited as well. so we have to coordinateholders each investigation. it's not as easy as us just saying we're going to go tomorrow and do an investigation. it is incredible what our investigators do to coordinate these trips. and by the way, we're in a pandemic and covid airline issues. to get an investigation to go
5:35 pm
from start to finish is a complicated process. so we are doing everything we can to remove those barriers through functional communication and we are seeing dramatic increase in the timeliness. but we will never be as fast as we want to be just by nature of the national guard. >> i yield back. >> i see mr. fallon is somewhere. you are next on the agenda if you are inclined to ask questions. >> yes, thank you so much. very gracious of you. i appreciate it.
5:36 pm
my question for general hokenson, how do we reconcile a state's code of military justice with the ucmj? >> we look at that because there were changes to the uniform code of military justice. each of the states that have a military justice may or may not make those changes quickly. so we really rely on our oci as they go out to investigate to really look at the state of military justice and how it applies. if we go back t administrative investigation, some states use that as the means to start a court martial but not all states are like this. we really rely on chuck and his team to make sure they are aware of that state's specific code so
5:37 pm
they know what the leadership, what options they have once they receive the results of this investigation. >> i'm sorry for interrupting. are there any discrepancies which you think need to be addressed? >> congressman, i'm not sure i can answer that specifically because of the basically the rate at which some of these change. for us, if we have concerned and as mentioned previously, if there's an accusation, we try to reach out to that state immediately to say is there anything we can help, any resources that you need or guidance that you're lacking to help make sure we fill gaps in any areas to make sure we're doing the right thing for our guardsmen and women. >> i have another question, but i want to make sure i'd be remiss if i didn't mention that i think that your leadership is helping dramatically address
5:38 pm
this problem and it's very much appreciated. we want to ensure that our guard troops aren't treated as second class soldiers in any regard. that's upon us to do what we can. that's why i supported the equity and hazardous pay for national guard troops. another question real quickly. the sharp program is an annual requirement for the national guard soldiers. with so few drill weekends, how do we ensure this is an event instead of more of a checking the box kind of thing? >> thank you for that question, because one of the things we came up with with our joint task force that looked at this, is a lot of the training they receive is really focused on title x. but almost all of our work is done in a title xxxii condition.
5:39 pm
i actually yesterday saw the six-day program under which they really want to tailer that train training to make sure when they're there in the limit time they're soldiers and airmen that they get taught specifically to the environment they're operating. >> general, can you give us some examples of best practices that you've seen from some states addressing the sexual assault problem? >> yes, congressman. when i look at assistance we gave to the state of wisconsin, this was a result of issues that were identified there a few
5:40 pm
years ago. so one of the things we did is set up really a road map in coordination with the state on key indicators of things they said they could do to get to the point where they had really addressed all of those. these went from looking at a risk assessment of individual events. one of the things that came up is really looking at a risk assessment of any time alcohol is at a unit function and are all the things in place there to help identify and mitigate the potential causes for an environment where sexual assault or sexual harassment may occur. we also identified that there's indicators where it's in the army national guard but not the air national guard. one of our proposals is to share that with the air national guard as well, because it provides an anonymous ability for individuals to provide input and
5:41 pm
identify things they may see that cause these risk factors to be present. >> madam chair, i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back. to follow up on mr. fallon's question, general hokenson, the wisconsin national guard had 33 sexual assault cases. those cases were chosen not to be undertaken by the local district attorney. no action was taken. an investigation within wisconsin found that the victims didn't get any resources and wisconsin has not updated its state military law as it was expected to do. now, the u.s. government provides $26 billion a year to
5:42 pm
national guards across this country. $26 billion. my understanding is that your authority is one of encouragenc, cajoling, hoping they'll do the right thing. but outside of giving them money, we don't have any hook to get them to do what they should do. in wisconsin, where they haven't even changed their military code when they were required to do so and there were 36 cases, some very current that were not pursued and oci has this kind of bizarre function and there is no accountability, what should we do? doesn't sound like you have
5:43 pm
anything but persuasion on your side. at what point do we freeze the money or at what point do we say you need to follow the ucmj or you won't get the money? >> in this case when you look at wisconsin and the accusations that were made and the governor did make leadership changes when these were identified within the organizations and we provided an assistance team to wisconsin to really take a look at every aspect -- >> i'm asking you a very specific question. do you have any power? >> i think i have all the authorities i need to work with the states to make sure they follow the service guidance that they've given. >> but if they don't, it's up to the governor in a state.
5:44 pm
and in the state of wisconsin, but for the journalists who brought these cases to the attention of the public, i don't know that anything would be done. i think all of us here want to make sure that our national guard service members have the same protections under the law. and they become federalized in time of war or when needed. so i really think that we have more work to do here. let me ask you about the issue with alcohol. so i guess there's no prohibition of using alcohol on those exercise weekends, is that right? >> not in training. these would be in unit functions after hours. >> how do you ensure that each
5:45 pm
state tag is properly investigating sexual harassment and sexual assault? >> so with respect to sexual assault, they would actually not be able to do the investigation because commanders are permitted from using their resources to do that. they are really reliant on local law enforcement to do those investigations. as we mentioned before, if local law enforcement decides for some reason not to do that, then oci is the administrative avenue that we have to help support the states to do those investigations. >> yeah, but if the tag does not refer, it doesn't get investigated, is that correct? >> yes, ma'am. >> so there's a huge problem here. in many respects what's going on in the national guard is what went on in the military when it was up to the chain of command to make a determination as to whether or not to pursue a sexual assault case. and we found out that for a
5:46 pm
number of reasons they cheese not to do that. and a tag who has a number of sexual assault cases that occur under their command become loathe to report them or seek assistance of oci for fear that it might reflect poorly on them and sometimes they are the assaulters. so i've got some considers concerns. it's $26 billion that we dole out every year to the states and we have no control, no authority to protect those national guard service members if the state chooses not to. i'll now yield to mr. gallagher if he has further questions. >> i have no further questions. >> let's see. who is next? ms. houlahan is no longer here.
5:47 pm
ms. escobar, you're recognized. >> thank you, madam chair. i'd like to circle back with general walker, because general hokenson had asked that general walker respond to what legal options the national guard bureau would have in the cases such as those i've outlined under operation lone star and those cases that the chair has outlined also as an example. if there is a governor who continues to ignore the health, safety and welfare of the national guard specifically and has not rectified the situation -- and i'm talking about lots of different egregious offenses we've seen in texas, to general walker, what
5:48 pm
are the legal options available to the national guard bureau? >> well, let me start with kind of addressing what happens when a sexual assault is reported. >> and general walker, let me interrupt you. my apologies, but i'm not talking about sexual assault, sexual harassment in particular. this is a much more general question. >> common, to address that general question would definitely exceed the scope of why i'm here today. i can tell you that in order for the national guard to exert control over the state in a nonfederalized status is an ongoing issue of debate. as you've seen in other areas that are going on right now, it's a subject of actual litigation as to what the national guard's authorities
5:49 pm
are. and the reality is that we work with the states wherever we can to address issues when they're brought to our attention. as someone who came from the field. so that's a nuance. i've only been over a year in this role. when i was a states guardsman, leadership in state, i can tell you that the intent always is to comply with the service directives and to work with national guard bureau in the role of assistance in order to meet those requirements. the actually legalities of what we can do, those are questions above my scope here. but i can tell you the issues when they're brought to attention, we sit down, as i've seen when i was on the other side, guard bureau, general hokenson and staff work with the states to find solutions to these hard problems. again, everything that we
5:50 pm
address starts with an impartial investigation from my standpoint in oci. we provide that information to the states. they take it and use it in order to make -- make the service. i know we have problems. i know there are issues. ongoing general who kisses you to ship i think is the best discipline in the long time. so british problems, there are solutions, in this collaboration and are working through some of the problems as far as authorities, by a cooperating with each other because we have all the same good intent to solve these problems. >> thank you, general walker. thank you general walker. i have one last question for you before my time expires. is the office of complex investigations aware of the conditions of the guardsmen deployed at our southern border? >> well, congresswoman, that would totally be beyond our scope. again, we only come into play
5:51 pm
when and adjutant general requests an investigation. we don't actively seek information outside of that role of investigating specific cases. >> okay, thank you, madam chair, i yield back. >> chairwoman yields back. either any further questions? seeing none, we thank general hawkinson and brigadier general walker for your time and attention today. there are a number of requests we've made. we look forward to receiving your answers in due time. thank you. the committee is adjourned. adjourned.
5:52 pm
on thursday their house oversight and reform which is a cause of the washington football team's work day this culture after
5:53 pm
the senate intelligence committee considered the nomination of kenneth wainstein to serve as undersecretary for intelligence and analysis. in the home that security department. members question him about information sharing and the intelligence community. domestic terror threats, and security at the southern border. mr. wainstein previously served as homeland security adviser in the george w. bush administration. >> [inaudible conversations]


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on