Pentagon adopts new procedures to curb sexual assault

Desegregation of the military was one of the great accomplishments of the second half of 20th century America. Some historians say that President Harry Truman's 1948 executive order to desegregate the Army presaged the more sweeping Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Another rapid cultural change was the post-Vietnam clean-up of drug activity in the Army and Marine Corps.

Now the military aims to change its historic passive acceptance of sexual assault. The Pentagon launched last week a set of measures that are designed to change things. The most substantive elements of this initiative are a common definition of sexual assault in all services and the presence of a sexual assault response coordinator at all military installations.

The long history of repeated sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy finally cracked the consciousness of Congress, forcing disciplinary actions and dismissals from command. But changing the names in the command structure won't change anything until there is a palpable change of policy.

Tuesday's announcement is significant and heartening.

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