Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The Department of Defense needs to issue guidance for tracking reports of sexual assault and harassment, as well as the results of those reports, said a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday.
The GAO's review found that the DoD doesn't have a clear standard regarding what types of incidents need to be reported to its central databases, and that the tools available for creating certain types of assault reports can vary.
This is particularly true for civilian DoD employees, who -- unlike military members -- are not guaranteed support services after an assault and whose reports are not tracked consistently.
For example, the report noted, last summer the DoD issued guidance directing services to establish anti-harassment programs, but did not say specifically how such programs should be structured.
"Without clarifying guidance, components can establish programs that do not align with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance for model anti-harassment programs," the report said.
Those gaps make it difficult to get a true picture of how many civilian employees have experienced or perpetrated sexual harassment or assault -- or what actions were taken after reports.
In addition to adopting a standardized, department-wide apparatus for collecting data on reports and consequences, the DoD needs to offer clearer guidance for how component branches and agencies should report sexual assault, the GAO said.
As it is, the DoD's current method for tracking and receiving reports of sexual assault contains significant gaps and some cases fall through the cracks.
The GAO's report notes that the DoD has reviewed its recommendations and largely agrees with them -- but that a statutory change is needed to clarify civilian DoD employees' rights.
"According to DOD officials, they have not taken action to resolve this variation due to conflicts with federal statute, among other things," GAO said in the report.
"By reporting to and requesting any needed actions from Congress to resolve any conflicts with statute, the department can alleviate such inconsistencies and minimize legal risks for DOD components," the report said.