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My Coast Guard
Commentary | March 15, 2024

Coast Guard sets clear expectations regarding sexual assault, sexual harassment in the Service

By AJ Pulkkinen, MyCG writer

The Coast Guard has changed its Military Separations policy to make it abundantly clear that sexual assault and sexual harassment will result in the offender being processed for separation from the Service.  

Any military member found to have committed sexual assault or sexual harassment will be processed for separation. Those separated will receive a characterization of service no higher than General (Under Honorable Conditions).   

“We are strengthening our ability to hold people accountable,” said Vice Adm. Paul Thomas during his March 6 testimony to the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.  

Previous policy did not directly state that committing sexual assault or sexual harassment was a standalone basis for separation. This policy gap meant that commands had to connect the dots themselves, rather than requiring one consistent response to all substantiated sexual assault or harassment claims. 

Current policy is now clear: 

  • Officers found by at least a preponderance of the evidence — meaning more likely than not — to have committed an act of sexual assault or sexual harassment will be separated for cause for moral or professional dereliction. 
  • Enlisted members found by at least a preponderance of the evidence to have committed an act of sexual assault or sexual harassment will be separated for misconduct.  

Victim’s Rights 

Victims of reported sexual assault, sexual harassment, or domestic violence now have the right to be present at Boards of Inquiries or Administration Separations Boards. The change is intended to promote transparency and to empower victims to continue cooperating in the investigation. 

Retired Grade Determinations 

The updated Military Separations Instruction also clarifies the process and criteria for retired grade determinations.   

Retired grade determination boards "allow us to go back and retire someone at a lower grade because they have been substantiated for sexual assault or sexual harassment,” said Vice Adm. Thomas at his Congressional testimony. 


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