Report | Sept. 4, 2020

Evaluation of the Department of Defense and Department of Defense Education Activity Responses to Incidents of Serious Juvenile-on-Juvenile Misconduct on Military Installations (DODIG-2020-127)

Evaluations

Publicly Released: September 9, 2020

Objective

The objectives of this evaluation were to determine whether the DoD and DoD Education Activity (DoDEA):

  • have adequate policies and procedures to respond to incidents of serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct, including sexual assault and sexual harassment; and
     
  • referred serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incidents to DoD law enforcement organizations and military and civilian child advocacy and health services.

Background

The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (Senate Report 115-262), expressed concern about the ability of the DoD and DoDEA to “protect or provide justice to the children of service members when they are sexually assaulted by other children” in DoD schools and on military bases. The report directed the DoD OIG to “conduct a comprehensive assessment of DoD and DoDEA policies and procedures regarding misconduct, including sexual misconduct, to help child victims of misconduct and to rehabilitate child offenders, including whether the Department took corrective actions to hold offenders accountable when appropriate.”

DoDEA is the DoD’s school system for active duty military and DoD civilian dependent children. It operates 163 schools world-wide and provides education to more than 71,000 children. The DoDEA is responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, and managing pre-kindergarten through 12th grade educational programs on behalf of the DoD.

Findings

DoDEA administrators did not report all misconduct incidents that could have been categorized as serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incidents to DoDEA headquarters (HQ), installation commanders, or law enforcement. We determined that between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2017, there were 600 incidents that could have been reported as serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incidents that occurred at DoDEA schools. DoDEA administrators did not report:

  • 522 (87 percent) incidents to DoDEA HQ,
     
  • 593 (99 percent) incidents to the installation commander, and
     
  • 524 (88 percent) incidents to law enforcement.

This occurred because DoDEA policy provided DoDEA administrators the discretion to determine which incidents could be reported to DoDEA HQ, installation commanders, and law enforcement.

As a result, DoDEA HQ personnel were unaware of at least 522 juvenile-on-juvenile incidents, installation commanders could not hold juvenile offenders accountable, and law enforcement could not conduct investigations of serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incidents.

We also reviewed a statistical sample of 126 of the 401 Military Law Enforcement Organizations (MLEO) and Military Criminal Investigative Organizations (MCIO) investigations of serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct that occurred, at DoDEA schools or other locations on the installation, between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2017.

We determined that MLEO and MCIO personnel investigated all 126 serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incidents in accordance with MLEO and MCIO policies. However, MLEO and MCIO investigative case files did not specify whether juvenile offenders were referred to the appropriate officials to be held accountable. Specifically, there was no information specifying whether MLEO and MCIO personnel notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or Department of Justice (DoJ) in 66 of 126 (52 percent) of its serious juvenile investigations, as required by DoD Instruction 5525.07, “Implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Between the Departments of Justice (DoJ) and Defense Relating the Investigation and Prosecution of Certain Crimes,” June 18, 2007. MLEO and MCIO personnel told us that they did not consistently report juvenile-on-juvenile incidents to the FBI or DoJ because these agencies generally did not provide them investigative or prosecutorial assistance.

Additionally, there was no information in the investigative case files specifying whether MLEO and MCIO personnel notified civilian legal authorities, such as Federal, State, County, and Host Nation legal authorities, in 48 of 126 (38 percent) serious juvenile-on-juvenile incidents. Although MLEO and MCIO personnel notified civilian legal authorities in 78 of 126 (62 percent) incidents, there was no information in investigative case files specifying whether civilian legal authorities took legal action in 66 of 78 (85 percent) incidents.

There also was no information in investigative case files specifying whether MLEO and MCIO personnel notified installation commanders in 14 of 126 (11 percent) serious juvenile-on-juvenile incidents. Although MLEO and MCIO personnel notified installation commanders in 112 of 126 (89 percent) incidents, there was no information in the investigative case files specifying whether installation commanders took administrative action in 96 of the 112 (86 percent) incidents. Additionally, we determined that the DoD did not establish policy that specifies how installation commanders should address serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incidents, including parameters for holding the offenders accountable.

Installation commanders, MLEO and MCIO personnel, DoDEA officials, Behavioral Health professionals, and Judge Advocates at the seven installations we visited told us that the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) was responsible for providing counseling support services to juvenile victims and offenders. However, DoD Instruction 6400.01 only required the FAP to provide counseling support services to victims of suspected child abuse.

The DoD defines child abuse as “[t]he physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect of a child by a parent, guardian, foster parent, or by a caregiver, whether the caregiver is intrafamilial or extrafamilial, under circumstances indicating the child’s welfare is harmed or threatened. Such acts by a sibling, other family member, or other person shall be deemed to be child abuse only when the individual is providing care under express or implied agreement with the parent, guardian, or foster parent.” Although DoD Instruction 6400.01 was updated in May 2019 to require FAP personnel to provide support services to victims and offenders in juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incidents that are sexual in nature, the update does not address support services for victims and offenders of serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct that is not sexual in nature, such as the victims or offenders of assault and battery or the possession and use of drugs.

As a result of the lack of information regarding referrals and accountability in the investigative case files, we could not determine whether civilian legal authorities and installation commanders took legal action or administrative action. Furthermore, MLEO and MCIO personnel, installation commanders, and Judge Advocates told us that civilian legal authorities and installation commanders generally did not hold juvenile offenders accountable. Finally, between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2017, FAP personnel told us that the FAP did not provide counseling support services to the offenders and victims of juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incidents, whether the incident was sexual or non-sexual in nature.

Recommendations

We recommend that the DoDEA Director perform a review to assess the DoDEA Administrators’ use of discretion when determining whether to report an incident as a serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incident.

Additionally, we recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness develop policy that specifies how installation commanders should address serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incidents. Furthermore, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness should develop policy that identifies which DoD agency will provide counseling support services to victims and offenders of serious juvenile-on-juvenile misconduct incidents.

Finally, we recommend that the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force update MLEO and MCIO policies to require personnel to document in all investigative case files all notifications to civilian legal authorities and installation commanders and when possible, the legal and administrative actions taken.

Management Comments and Our Response

The DoDEA Director agreed with the recommendation and described specific actions the DoDEA would take to implement the recommendation. However, the DoDEA Director did not describe the specific actions he would take to limit the discretion of DoDEA administrators, therefore, we consider the recommendation for the DoDEA unresolved, and open.

The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness agreed with the recommendations. However, the Under Secretary did not describe the actions that the USD(P&R) would take to address the recommendations; therefore the recommendations are unresolved, and open.

The Chief of Law Enforcement Division, for the Office of the Army Provost Marshal General, responding on behalf of the Secretary of the Army, did not address the recommendation; therefore, the recommendation is unresolved, and open. Specifically, the Chief did not state whether he agreed or disagreed with the recommendation, nor did he describe the actions the Army would take in response to the recommendation. The Assistant Director of the NCIS and the Head, Audit Coordination and Liaison, Office of the Director, Marine Corps Staff, responding separately on behalf of the Secretary of the Navy, both agreed with the recommendation. Both Navy Officials described specific actions the NCIS and the Marine Corps would take to implement the recommendation; therefore, the recommendation for the NCIS and the Marine Corps is resolved, but open.

The Director, Policy and Oversight, Naval Audit Service, and an Audit Liaison Tracking Specialist responding separately on behalf of the Secretary of the Navy, stated in discussions with the Chief of Naval Operations staff, agreed with the report, but “did not have a stake” in the recommendation and would not be providing a response. We disagree with the Director’s comments because the recommendation was to update MCIO and MLEO policies, which includes Naval Security Forces that comes under the purview of the Chief of Naval Operations. Therefore, the recommendation for the Secretary of the Navy relating to Departmental MLEO policy is unresolved, and open.

The Deputy Inspector General of the Air Force and the Chief, Integrated Defense Policy Division, Directorate of Security Forces, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection responding separately on behalf of the Secretary of the Air Force, agreed with the recommendation. The Air Force officials described specific actions the Air Force would take to implement the recommendation; therefore, the recommendation for the Air Force is resolved, but open.

This report is a result of Project No. D2019-DEV0SV-0173.000.