Biden Pledges to ‘End the Scourge’ of Sexual Assault in the Military

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    President Joe Biden marked International Women’s Day by saying he’s nominating the second and third women to lead a combatant command in the U.S. military and by creating a gender policy council within the White House. #InternationalWomensDay #IWD

    Biden said on Monday that he picked General Jacqueline Van Ovost as commander of the U.S. Transportation Command and Lieutenant General Laura Richardson as commander of the U.S. Southern Command.

    “We need little girls and boys both who have grown up dreaming of serving for their country to know this is what generals in the United States armed forces look like,” Biden said at the White House. “This is what vice presidents of the United States look like.”

    Biden campaigned on improving racial and gender equity in the U.S. and pledged a more diverse administration. In his remarks Monday, Biden called for improving gender equality in the military and said he’s committed to ending sexual assault in the armed forces.

    The nominations come after President Donald Trump’s defense secretary, Mark Esper, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, delayed the officers’ promotions to protect their careers, according to the New York Times. Esper and Milley viewed the two as deserving of commands but worried that only white men would advance into those positions under Trump, according to the report.

    As head of Southern Command in Florida, Richardson would be responsible for U.S. military forces and operations in Central America, South America and much of the Caribbean. She’s currently commanding general of U.S. Army North.

    As head of transportation command, Van Ovost would handle the military’s vast transportation operations globally. She’s currently commander of the Air Mobility Command.

    “Today is International Women’s Day and we all need to see and to recognize the barrier breaking accomplishments of these women,” Biden said.

    General Lori Robinson, the retired former commander of U.S. Northern Command from 2016-2018, was the first woman to serve as a combatant commander, according to the White House.

    Biden’s announcement on the military picks came the same day he created a gender policy council within the White House. The council, created by an executive order, will include a staff of four, three of whom will hold the title of special assistant to the president, according to a senior administration official who previewed the two orders.

    The council’s mandate is to work across the federal government’s domestic and foreign policy to fight discrimination and bias, boost economic security, increase access to health care, and advance general equality through diplomacy, trade and defense.

    A second order asks the Department of Education to re-examine Trump administration policies and rule-making on Title IX, the 1972 law which governs the way sex-based discrimination in schools is handled. The goal, one of the officials said, is to ensure students have an education “free of sexual violence.”

    The Trump administration also scrapped key Obama-era policies and put forward their rules which, among other items, said transgender students couldn’t use the bathroom consistent with their gender identities. Biden’s executive order instructs the agency to make sure all policies related to Title IX are consistent with the ethos of the Biden-Harris administration, the official added.

    “President Biden knows we need a government-wide focus on uplifting the rights of all women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, restoring America as a champion for gender equity,” said one of the officials.

    The Obama administration had a White House Council on Women and Girls. The new gender council reflects the idea, one official said, that gender discrimination can happen to people of all genders.

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