WASHINGTON -- Sexual harassment of women in the militar will end only if the services' top leaders lead a determined fight, as they did against racial bias and drug abuse, a congressional report said today.
"The services have the programmatic and administrative tools they need to combat sexual harassment," said Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wis., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "Whether they work depends on the degree of commitment of the senior leadership of the Defense Department and the services."
Mr. Aspin and Democratic Rep. Beverly B. Byron, of Maryland's 7th District, chairman of the Armed Services personnel subcommittee, were to release the report at a Capitol Hill news conference today.
According to the committee's analysis, the military was able to make profound internal changes in order to overcome deep-rooted racial discrimination after World War II and widespread drug abuse in the 1960s and 1970s.
It identified three main stages in each case:
* Recognition of the problem followed by unsuccessful attempts to solve it.
* A "watershed event" that put the military's ability to carry out its missions in doubt and exposed it to public embarrassment.
* A wholehearted commitment by the uniformed top leadership to change behavior in the lower ranks.
The watershed event that led to racial integration of the military, the report said, was the Korean War, which created a desperate need for trained men. Later, well-publicized racial fighting aboard Navy aircraft carriers focused attention on problems in the all-volunteer force.
The military's effort to stop drug abuse in its ranks took hold, the report said, only after a fatal accident aboard the USS Nimitz killed sailors and airmen later found to have been abusing drugs.
the area of sexual harassment, the report said, last year's Tailhook incident may have been the watershed event. At a meeting of the Tailhook Association of Navy and Marine Corps aviators in Las Vegas, male officers sexually assaulted at least 26 women, including 14 of their fellow officers.
Assault victims made their complaints public, leading to a period of intense military self-examination and pledges to deal forcefully with the harassment problem.