January 19, 2021

Hirono Calls for DOD to Address Violence Against Women, Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Military During Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Defense

Hirono also highlights importance of training areas in Indo-Pacific region, secures DOD commitment to communicate and engage with local community stakeholders during the current lease renewal process

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) questioned President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, retired General Lloyd Austin, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today. The Senator pressed General Austin about his plans to address the scourge of sexual assault and harassment in the military, and how he plans to hold those who commit violence against women accountable, sharing the story of Selena Roth, a 25-year-old Army veteran and military wife who was found dead at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii last week. A soldier is in custody, and a homicide investigation is ongoing.

“It is very clear that the reforms that the Department of Defense has instituted are not nearly good enough and much more action is needed…My heart goes out to Selena’s family. Violent acts against women within our military communities continue to occur at an alarming rate – and I am committed to making sure that these perpetrators are held accountable. You noted in your statement that you will fight sexual assault and harassment in the military, including—I hope—that you will look at the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” Senator Hirono said.

Senator Hirono stressed the importance of military training areas, and secured a commitment that General Austin would have a transparent process and open dialogue with the community in Hawaii as a variety of military leases are set to expire in 2029. These leases are vital for training areas, which allow the military to be better prepared in responding to dynamic threats. Senator Hirono noted the lease renewal process should include state authorities and local stakeholders like the Native Hawaiian community, who the Department of Defense (DOD) should engage “early, often, and openly.”

The Senator also underscored her agreement with questions posed by her colleagues about actively countering white supremacy and extremism within the ranks of the military, and responding to cyber attacks against the United States. General Austin voiced his commitment to confronting both threats to our national security.

In December, following a conversation with General Austin, Senator Hirono announced she would support a waiver to the National Security Act of 1947 to allow General Austin to serve as the next Secretary of Defense. They also discussed other pressing defense issues for Hawaii and the United States, including improving Department of Defense responses to sexual harassment and assault, DOD engagement in the Indo-Pacific, and modernizing the nation’s four public shipyards—including Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, among other issues.

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