Burying the Evidence

Burying the Evidence
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Brad Carson wanted to do one big thing before leaving the Pentagon: make sure that the Department of Defense accurately counted the number of sexual assaults in the military.

It was 2015, toward the end of the Obama administration, and he had become acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, the department’s top human resources role. The position is considered one of the most boring in the Pentagon. But Carson, then 48 years old and a former Oklahoma congressman, was excited to take it on. He had been a progressive leader as undersecretary of the Army.

Officially, 6,083 service members reported sexual assaults that year, but Carson knew the real number was much higher. He believed that bureaucratic hurdles prevented victims from reporting. And saddled with a buggy database system, neither commanders nor Congress had a complete view of trends in offenses and victims in real time. Carson was convinced that the inaccurate sexual assault data was leading to bad policy.

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