The Defense Department is committed to promoting an environment where all service members are treated with dignity and respect, Anthony M. Kurta, performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told a House panel today.
Kurta appeared before the House Armed Services’ subcommittee on military personnel to testify on military social media policies. Appearing with him were the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis; the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso; the chief of naval personnel, Vice Adm. Robert Burke; and the Army’s director of military personnel management, Maj. Gen. Jason Evans.
Ill Behavior Hurts Readiness
“We are focused on eradicating behaviors that undermine military readiness, including unlawful discrimination and harassment, Kurta told the panel. “Such misconduct is fundamentally at odds with our core values and the expectations of the American people. These behaviors jeopardize our military mission … and erode unit cohesion.”
The U.S. military is an institution held in high regard by the American people, mostly because it embodies high standards and values, he said.
“However, we are not a perfect institution,” Kurta added. “Overwhelmingly, the vast majority of our brave men and women serving in uniform do so honorably and bravely. When these men and women volunteer to serve in our military, they do so knowing the risks involved. However, bullying and sexual harassment on cyber or otherwise by fellow service members should never be one of those risks.”
All Personnel Held Accountable
DoD does its best to uphold its standards and values across the world every minute of every day, he said, but on occasion, service members fail to meet these standards.
“When that happens, we endeavor to the best of our ability to hold each and every one accountable for their actions,” Kurta said.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is investing a significant amount of time in addressing the social media issue, Kurta said, and he is providing his vision and direction directly to the service secretaries and the department’s most senior uniformed leaders.
The defense secretary also is “listening to those most involved in setting and upholding our standards and our values. The secretary believes our most successful and ready war-fighting units are those with the best discipline,” he noted.
“On the battlefield, you must have full trust and confidence in your teammates. That is not possible when you do not treat them with dignity and respect,” Kurta said.
Structure In Place For Issues
DoD has structures in place to address the misuse of social media, with a combination of leadership — because DoD treats it as a leadership issue — education and training, needed updates to its policies and the flexibilities that the Uniformed Code of Military Justice affords the department, he said.
“As we continue to address social media activities and review our policies, we will, of course, work with the Congress,” Kurta noted, “on any issues or challenges that we identify.”