Pentagon takes on bullying, 'offensive jokes' in new US military harassment policy

  • The Pentagon put military members on notice Thursday it has a tough new policy to deal with bullying and harassment.
  • U.S. military members who engage in harassment online or in the workplace face a permanent blot on their service record.
  • The policy covers any kind of harassment, including "offensive jokes, stereotyping, violence and discrimination," a Pentagon official said.
The Pentagon building in Washington, DC.
AFP | Getty Images
The Pentagon building in Washington, DC.

The Pentagon put every service member on notice that it will not tolerate harassment in the military, whether offensive jokes, bullying or sexual harassment, according to a new policy announced Thursday.

The Department of Defense also indicated that those who engage in such conduct online or in the workplace face a permanent blot on their service record.

The announcement follows reports about the growing problem of sexual harassment in the military as well as inappropriate online misconduct by U.S. military personnel, including a nude-photo-sharing scandal last year on social media that rocked the Marine Corps.

"Let me be clear: harassment has no place in our military," chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said Thursday in announcing the DoD's new policy on harassment. "This policy brings us one step closer to eliminating these behaviors."

"The point of the harassment policy is to ensure we have a safe workplace," White said. "No one should be intimidated. No one should feel as though they can't do their job without being discriminated against, and this goes to hazing, this goes to political beliefs, this goes to religious beliefs."

The Pentagon said its new policy updates past policies on sexual harassment for service members while also providing new procedures for various types of harassment prevention and response.

"The comprehensive policy for service members addresses harassment, including sexual harassment and harassment through social media," the DoD said in a release. "The policy strengthens and reaffirms the department's position that it does not tolerate any kind of harassment by any service member, either in person or online."

White said, "This policy provides a formal, binding foundation to work from. But it's just the beginning."

She also called the policy "a framework for military services to address unacceptable behaviors such as offensive jokes, stereotyping, violence and discrimination."

"This policy increases leadership commitment and accountability and provides additional resources and requirements to protect service members," DoD said.

At the same time, the Pentagon said, there are "preventive measures in the policy" that are designed "to identify and address problematic behaviors early, in an effort to prevent these behaviors from escalating."

"The policy issued today brings us one step closer to eliminating these behaviors from the Department of Defense," said Robert L. Wilkie, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. "My focus on this is unwavering."