The Department of the Air Force is doing a 90-day review of how the Air Force and Space Force help victims of domestic violence, an analysis that has already led to plans to hire more special agents for future investigations into cases of abuse.
The review comes as a response to a 2021 survey that found that 66% of women and 48% of men in the Air Force reported experiencing some form of interpersonal violence, meaning abuse that ranged in severity from workplace bullying to physical or sexual assault and family violence.
"We owe survivors of both domestic violence and sexual assault a foundation of trust to report violence, and confidence that all members of the Department of the Air Force know how to effectively respond and support," Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in a Jan. 27 press release. "While we have taken actions to improve victim response and support programs, there is more work to be done in earning and sustaining the trust of survivors."
Investigations into how the Air Force handles domestic violence and other forms of abuse followed the creation of the Interpersonal Violence Task Force in July 2020 after the tragic killings of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen and Airman 1st Class Natasha Raye Aposhian.
The services laid out several initiatives in the Jan. 27 press release aimed at decreasing the time it takes to pursue court-martial charges, helping dependents who suffer abuse secure more benefits, and updating electronic records to better track repeat offenders.
In addition to the 90-day review, the Department of the Air Force plans on "growing the number of special agents in the Office of Special Investigations solely dedicated to investigating allegations of interpersonal violence," according to the news release.
This includes hiring 86 additional people and improving training for those who investigate violent crimes to include domestic violence, the release detailed.
"Our approach is centered on supporting survivors and helping to prevent domestic violence and/or sexual assault in the first place," Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones said in the Jan. 27 press release. "This is a warfighting issue, a readiness issue and a leadership issue."
Additionally, the Department of the Air Force is asking the Office of Special Trial Counsel to "streamline the investigation and trial process," which would move things away from the command reporting structure in hopes of decreasing case processing times, and ensuring experts in domestic violence investigate allegations immediately following a reported offense.
The Department of the Air Force also wants to improve transitional compensation -- a monthly payment to help victims of domestic violence get back on their feet after separating from their abuser.
In August 2018, under the National Defense Authorization Act, domestic violence became a separate Uniform Code of Military Justice offense from assault or battery.
With the charges being separate, the Department of the Air Force plans on "establishing an electronic system that allows Domestic Abuse Violence Advocates to maintain records longer to better track and identify situations of repeated domestic abuse," according to the news release.
The 90-day review and new policy proposals follow several new initiatives from the Department of the Air Force to address domestic violence and abuse in the ranks.
In August, the Air Force launched a pilot program that put resources for survivors of domestic abuse, stalking, cyber bullying and sexual assault in one central base office to make reporting and finding support easier.
That pilot program launched stateside at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas; Vandenberg Space Force Base, California; Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Hill Air Force Base, Utah; and Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
Overseas, the initiative is being tested at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and also at Royal Air Force Lakenheath in the U.K.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.