By: Jonathan Negron Kernizan, Member-Candidate, J.D. Candidate, May 2020, St. Thomas University School of Law.

It is no secret that sexual harassment and sexual assault are a significant problem in the military. As part of an effort to combat that issue, the Department of Defense hired RAND Corporation to conduct an independent evaluation. On September 21, 2018, the National Defense Research Institute released the much-anticipated report, volume 5 of “Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military.” The purpose of the report is “to identify how the risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment varies across military installations.” However, its reliability has been called into question.

Although the report is extensive, as it is 118 pages long, it does leave questions unanswered. For example, the data collected may not be reliable to decide which military commands are being either more or less effective combating sexual misconduct, as the data “[does] not document where the sexual assaults occurred or who committed the assault.”  Furthermore, the report states that “for example, when referring to rates of sexual assault for personnel assigned to the USS George Washington, we do not infer that all such assaults occurred while sailors were on that ship. Assaults could also have occurred in the ship’s home port in Norfolk, Virginia; while on liberty at a foreign port; or even while the member was on leave in his or her hometown.” This data can be clearly misleading, as it is impossible to distinguish whether the perpetrators in a certain command are military members, civilians employees, or civilians out in town.

How can the military combat having its members sexually abused if they are not informed what the source of the abuse is? How will the military know whether it needs to modify the repercussions for sexual predators, increase security on base, or re-evaluate which ports it send its ships to? RAND Corporation’s slogan is “Objective analysis. Effective solutions” but this report proves to be quite ineffective in meeting its purpose.