Anti-harassment Pentagon policy aims to stop offensive behavior

Anti-harassment Pentagon policy aims to stop offensive behavior

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Defense Secretary James Mattis meets with Pentagon reporters Thursday (DoD photo by Air Force Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

WASHINGTON — A new anti-harassment policy released Thursday by the Pentagon will meld differing policies of the services and eventually ban a sweeping range of behaviors such as stereotyping, violence, discrimination, and “offensive jokes.”

The policy comes nearly a year after a nude-photo scandal caused an uproar in the Marines and then in other parts of the military community.

“You have to adapt to your times,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told Pentagon reporters Thursday.

Last spring, the Navy and Marine Corps officially banned service members from distributing nude or otherwise intimate photos without the consent of the person depicted.

“There is a rough good humor among soldiers, we all know that. But I have never seen rough good humor countenance or in any way frame something that’s disgusting, repellent or something like that,”  said Mattis, who is known for his own use of colorful language to inspire the troops.

Called “Department of Defense Instruction 1020.33, the 23-page document is to set the framework for “Harassment Prevention and Response in the Armed Forces.”

“I don’t want to lose all sense (of) humor in the military but I have never seen an ounce of belief in the military that you can denigrate someone,” Mattis said.

The military services and Defense Department components will have 60 days to develop and submit implementation plans for the policy, which does not apply to civilian employees.

“Let me be clear: Harassment has no place in our military,” Dana White, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, told reporters earlier in the day in announcing the new policy. “This policy brings us one step closer to eliminating these behaviors.”

Who will decide what those behaviors will be and who will determine if they are offensive remains unclear.

“Is there going to be a list of offensive words, like George Carlin’s magic words in the ’70s?” Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio asked.

White said the goal of the harassment policy is to address all issues of harassment.

“The point of the harassment policy is to ensure we have a safe workplace. No one should be intimidated. No one should feel 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,” she said.

White said the comprehensive policy is geared toward making it easier to put a permanent mark on service records of military members who harass or bully people on the job or online.

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