Unreliable data means the Defense Department cannot pinpoint how many service members are involved in domestic violence incidents or identify demographic factors contributing to abuse cases, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
The Pentagon tracks incidents of domestic abuse in two databases – one for criminal cases and one run by its Family Advocacy Program for spouse and child abuse – but duplication of some information makes it difficult to determine the incidence of domestic abuse. GAO has repeatedly recommended that the Pentagon combine the databases or streamline the data into a single location.
Also, the Family Advocacy Program’s registry fails to capture abuse cases that involved civilian law enforcement but were not reported to the family program; cases involving reserve service members who were not on active duty when the incident occurred; cases involving service members who went to civilian doctors and chose not to report them to the Defense Department; and cases that were reported to a commander who took no action.
Another criticism: the department does not collect data on factors that may contribute to domestic violence, such as a soldier’s deployment to Afghanistan or financial instability, the GAO said. And, the Pentagon has no way to measure the effectiveness of its current domestic abuse awareness campaigns.
“At present, the DOD’s leadership lacks the visibility over information needed to understand the magnitude of the domestic abuse problem, identify trends in domestic abuse, and use fact-based information to improve the effectiveness of its efforts,” the GAO report said.
High-ranking Pentagon officials acknowledge that domestic abuse affects military readiness due to the amount of time commanders may spend dealing with the issue. “Mission and family life are closely connected. When issues surface in either area, both are affected,” the Air Force said in a 2009 press release.
FAST FACT: Domestic abuse affects more than just a soldier and his wife. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults, the GAO said, citing the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities. Congressional Research Service reports, which prepared for lawmakers but not made public, were provided by the Center for Democracy and Technology.
* China has been securing natural resources around the globe while it also restricts exports of its own raw materials, and the Chinese steel industry may be poised to significantly expand its share of global production and exports (Congressional Research Service).
* The IRS received $203 million in stimulus funds but has not adopted fixed-price or performance-based contracts, nor is it adequately monitoring contractors to keep costs under control (OIG).
* Upper Columbia RC&D in Washington state, which received $3.9 million from the U.S. Forest Service to convert woody plants and trees into energy, may have to repay some of the stimulus law grant if it cannot document how the money was spent (OIG).
* EPA should set limit for nutrients in the northern Gulf of Mexico to help improve water quality throughout the Mississippi River Basin (National Research Council).