The Pentagon is finalizing the release of a potentially explosive report that will rank individual military installations and ships based on the likelihood service members may experience sexual harassment or sexual assault there.
The report, titled “Estimates for Installation- and Command-Level Risk of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment,” was slated for release this week, but last-minute concerns about the politically sensitive data, which would identify specific installations or ships as high risk, generated questions during pre-release briefings on Capitol Hill.
“During the briefings, individuals raised questions about the report and we needed time to address those questions,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason.
The Pentagon still intends to make the findings public eventually, Gleason said. The Pentagon commissioned the RAND Corporation to produce the not-yet published report “because we believe it will help us better understand and prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Gleason said. "These estimates give us a better understanding of how the risk of sexual assault varies within and across the services, it is not a current snapshot of installation sexual assault reports.”
In updates posted to the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office website, DoD said that RAND first estimated risk based on the sex, age and pay grade of service members at each location, and took into account base sizes.
RAND then further assessed “installation-specific risk,” which DoD said “did not mean an installation or command is causing or preventing sexual assault,” but rather aimed to capture “the portion of risk not explained by individual characteristics.”
DoD has already said the report will have some limitations. For example, a service member assigned to a base could report an assault that then gets attributed to that base, but the assault could have occurred elsewhere, “such as on another installation, during a deployment, outside the local area, or off base in the local community.”
To protect respondents, the report also excluded bases or ships where fewer than 50 surveys were provided, or bases and ships that had fewer than 100 service members.
The RAND study relies on the raw data obtained in 2014 surveys completed for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. By comparing survey response, locations and base populations, RAND’s report aims to “estimate sexual assault and sexual harassment risk across U.S. military installations, ships, and major commands.”
Tara Copp is a Pentagon correspondent for the Associated Press. She was previously Pentagon bureau chief for Sightline Media Group.