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Commission Soon to Begin Examining Problem of Sexual Assault in Military

The commission to examine the problem of sexual assault in the military should begin work soon, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is looking forward to their recommendations, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a news conference this afternoon.

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The commission has 90 days to compile its recommendations. Kirby said the secretary will not wait until the end of the commission to implement recommendations he feels would be helpful.

Kirby also said DOD officials will consult with congressional leaders as the commission comes together. Austin met with senior Pentagon leaders today to give them his feedback on their inputs for combating sexual assault. "As you know, it was his first directive on his second day in office to ask the services to provide him input on what they felt they were doing right, what they needed to improve and the ideas they had going forward," Kirby said. "He had the opportunity to review that work and talk to them about that today. It was a good productive discussion."

Man speaks while standing at a lectern.
Behind the Scenes
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby briefs the Pentagon press corps, Feb. 22, 2021.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 210222-D-BN624-0392

Austin told the leaders, which included the service chiefs, that by the end of the week he will formally announce the formation, make-up and start of the 90-day commission. With more granularity and more detail. 

Kirby was also asked about the dearth of information about extremism in the ranks. He said everyone would like better information on the extent of the problem of extremism in the department but it is not really something people readily admit to. "We get a sense that the problem is largely driven by conduct and behavior," Kirby said. 

Even then it is sometimes difficult to ascertain if the conduct is driven by ideology or some other factor, he said. 

Kirby also spoke about the missile attack in Baghdad today. That attack followed one in Erbil last week that killed an American and wounded others. He said there is no attribution for the attacks. 

Man speaks while standing at a lectern.
Pentagon Briefing
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby briefs the Pentagon press corps, Feb. 22, 2021.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 210222-D-BN624-0082

He could not tie the attacks together. "It's difficult to say with certainty whether there's a strategic calculation driving this … recent uptick in attacks, or whether this is just a continuation of the sorts of attacks we've seen in the past," he said.

U.S. officials will work closely with Iraqis — who are leading the investigation. "We're there to counter ISIS, at the invitation of the Iraqi government," Kirby said. "Our commanders — just like the Iraqi commanders — have the right of self-defense."

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