Copy of letter sent to 13 top Pentagon, 10 U.S. Senators, 6 U.S. House and 5 White House staff (see CC:) about focusing more on the root cause of military sexual assault which stems from a lack of character and failure to follow each services core values.
June 17, 2013
The Honorable Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Hagel,
Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in actions aimed at stopping sexual harassment and assault in the military—five pieces of proposed legislation, hearings and conferences. Improving the judicial approach, ramping up the consequences and making everyone in the military more aware will produce some positive results, but not stop an unacceptable level of incidents from still occurring. That’s because all this effort and attention focuses more on controlling the effect than addressing the root cause.
This crisis speaks to a lack of character on the part of both commanders and rank in file troops. The documentary, The Invisible War, clearly shows a pattern that can be traced back to a failing of character at all levels from bottom to top. As the co-author and editor of the book The Character-Based Leader, I feel strongly that we need to focus much more on the character issue if we are going to solve this.
All the services have programs in place that are supposed to address this issue. There are already strong Sexual Assault and Prevention Response (SAPR) offices with messages and training offered by all the services some of which have been around for years. This is on top of the military’s highly regarded leadership development programs for commanders and, of course, each services core values which emphasize respect, integrity and service over self. How can all these messages, training and initiatives fail to resolve or at least substantially reduce this problem?
We simply have too many individuals in the military at both the rank in file and commander level who clearly are not following their services core values and acting from the highest character. This isn’t just about focusing more on SAPR. To follow the SAPR message, one has to be of strong character which includes an unwavering commitment to the core values. The sexual harassment and assault problem is a symptom of something deeper that’s not’s quite right about leadership and character in the military.
Leadership is not about ones title, authority or power. It’s about who you are. Leadership is about building trust and trust is all about character. Especially in the military, everyone has to lead some of the time while those with a title need to lead all of the time. It’s not just commanders that must lead from character. Privates, airman and seaman all need to lead from character too when the situation calls for it. The core values demand it.
I believe that every individual in the military needs to be developed into a character-based leader from day one. Character-based leadership has to be woven into the culture of the military at a much deeper level than has previously been considered necessary. It takes the highest character to follow the core values and build trust. It takes the highest character to do the right thing in the face of peer pressure.
If enough individuals of character throughout all ranks in the military always stand up for what’s right, there will be no where for the sexual predator and harasser to hide. To really eliminate sexual harassment and assault in the military, the rank and file along with their commanders all must lead from the highest character. Awareness alone is not enough. Consequences are not enough. An improved procedural and legal system is not enough. Finally, it is through enough people’s strength of character that the cause of this problem will be addressed.
I hope this perspective has been helpful. If you feel I can add anything to this battle that could make a positive difference, I would love to help, be it by investigation, analysis, speaking or simply advising.
President and Founder
First Concepts Consultants, Inc.
Discovering creative, cause and effect based solutions for 28 years
John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army
Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy
Michael B. Donley, Secretary of the Air Force
General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
General Raymond T. Odierno, Army Chief of Staff
Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations
General Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force Chief of Staff
General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps
Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., Commandant of the Coast Guard
Honorable Members of the United States Senate
Kirsten Gillibrand Barbara Boxer Carl Levin Susan Collins Claire McCaskill
Kelly Ayotte Amy Klobuchar Lisa Murkowski Patty Murray Richard Blumenthal
Honorable Members of the United States House of Representatives
Howard P. McKeon Mike Turner Jackie Speier
Jackie Walorski Joe Heck Loretta Sanchez
Major General Gary S. Patton, Director Department of Defense SAPRO
General Larry O. Spencer, Vice Chief of Staff U.S. Air Force
Major General Margaret Woodward, Director Air Force SAPRO
Jill Vines Loftus, Director Navy SAPRO
Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States
Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady
Kathryn Ruemmler, White House Counsel
Liz Sherwood-Randall, White House Coordinator for Defense Policy
Lynn Rosenthal, White House Adviser on Violence Against Women
The Invisible War Movement Website
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About Don Shapiro
Don Shapiro is the co-author and editor of The Character-Based Leader and President of First Concepts Consultants, Inc. For 28 years, he has worked with for profit and non-profit organizations in over 30 industries to discover ways to grow and operate better based on his original research on how we make and influence choices. Don is an inspiring speaker on leadership, selling, strategy and choices. He is a graduate of the Executive Program in Management at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Learn about Don Shapiro’s energetic, fun and interactive speeches, workshops and training on leadership, leadership development, teamwork, change, improving cultures, value, sales and service.
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July 7, 2013 @ 11:58 pm
I agree with your points but my question is why those people? I know on a few but would like to know a little about what sending this message to those specific people will do.
July 8, 2013 @ 10:07 am
Great question Victoria. I did a lot of research on this and noted those individuals in Washington who were actively involved in this issue. It is a very select list.
The top military brass are the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretaries of each military service that report to Secretary Hagel. They were all called before the Senate Hearings on Military Sexual Assault. Secretary Hagel has asked each of them to submit a plan to him by July 1st. It rest on each military service to be directly involved in fixing this and those are the top people that Secretary Hagel is looking to do this. The other military people are all connected to Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Offices (SAPRO) of the various services. They are also key players in addressing this issue. Secretary Hagel has also asked them for new plans.
All the members of the Senate and House of Representatives have either sponsored bills to address this issue or are the heads of the Armed Services Committee in each house. They have all been involved in the hearings and meetings on this.
The five individuals from the White House were a part of a meeting held with individuals from the Pentagon and Congress about this issue. So they are directly involved in monitoring this and reporting back to the President and First Lady about developments as well as conveying the White House’s position. They are the White House staff assigned to this issue.
Secretary Hagel is the point person for this entire effort. He is the one taking orders from the President then turning around and directing the Pentagon’s efforts to resolve this. He comes from a private industry background so I have a lot of faith in him. It’s just that he’s relying too much on the Pentagon to figure out solutions.
The Pentagon has proven they can’t solve this problem. In 1989, Navy Secretary Garrett first used the term “zero tolerance” concerning sexual assault in the military. That was three years before Tailhook! Every head of the military has made this statement repeatedly during the last 24 years. There have been hundreds of studies done. The SAPRO’s were first created to address this issue in 2005 which is 8 years ago. So the military has been talking about zero tolerance for 24 years while the problem keeps getting worse.
This is a deep cultural issue within the military that cannot be solved by adding new elements to training programs, telling engagement commanders what to do and say and creating new posters to place in the barracks. I’ve worked with organizations in over 30 different industries. For the most part, senior officers can’t fix their own cultures. The Pentagon can’t order everyone to change and expect it to happen. 24 years of failure proves that.
Those of us from the private sector have successfully dealt with these types of difficult cultural changes involving organizations that have been around for a long time. If Secretary Hagel really wants to fix this for good, he needs to bring in a diverse private sector team who can help develop a plan that can actually change the culture. It can’t come just from the top or just through formal programs.
I have not heard from anyone I sent that letter to. I guess this is to be expected. They don’t know me and probably receive a lot of mail. I deliberately created that CC: to hopefully get their staffs to show them the letter. I also have sent this electronic version to 480 journalist including every top political editor, analyst and correspondent involved in Washington.
As I expected, I’m going to have to do this the old fashioned way. Today, I will start making calls to Secretary Hagel and everyone else on that list to schedule a phone conversation. If I can just get a few key ones on the phone to talk about this, I may be able to help them see what’s missing here.
What can you and others do right now to push this forward so we actually solve this once and for all? The simplest thing is to send emails and snail mail letters to key people (Secretary Hagel, Valarie Jarrett, Senator Gillibrand and others if time permits) asking them the following: What are their thoughts about Don Shapiro’s letter? Have they talked to Don Shapiro yet to discover what they are missing in addressing this issue? How do they propose to actually change the culture of the military since the Pentagon has failed to do so for 24 years?
In addition, I would suggest getting as many people as possible to write journalist with these same questions. If I only had one to pick I would suggest George Stephanopoulos (ABC News Chief Political Correspondent and Anchor for Good Morning America)and key producers at ABC News(I have their email addresses if anyone actually wants to do this). Of course, key producers and analyst at any of the top networks would be good. We need to get a discussion started in Washington that goes beyond everything they are currently doing and shares the truth about why previous efforts have failed and current efforts still don’t address the way that successful change efforts are done. I can use all the help that’s out there and then some. Together, we can make a difference!