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Military Hazing

Hazing has no place in our military.  It undermines our military readiness and deeply scars volunteers forced to endure it.  We must have a zero-tolerance hazing policy in our military.

Harry Lew was a Marine stationed in Afghanistan.  One midnight, his peers took it upon themselves to administer what they called “corrective training.”  They berated him, ordered him to dig a foxhole, and forced him to do useless exercises carrying his heavy full body armor and a 25-lb sandbag.  They stomped on his back, kicked and punched him, and poured the entire contents of a sandbag onto his face and in his mouth.  It lasted a full 3 ½ hours.

Finally, 22 minutes after they stopped, Harry killed himself with his own gun.   He was 21 years old.  He was my nephew.

I was shocked and stunned.  But I found out that Harry was only the tip of the iceberg. There was Danny Chen, Brushaun Anderson, Hamson Daniels McPherson Jr., Jarrett Wright and countless other victims of hazing, picked on because of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or just because they were different.

Congressional Hearing on Hazing
I called for a Congressional hearing and Congress held the first hearing on military abuse since 1979.  In fact, it might have been the first official hearing on hazing in every branch of the services in Congressional history.

But in the hearing, I heard each branch say that they have hazing under control.  That their policies are working. But the stories of Harry and others show that we clearly have work to do to eliminate hazing in the military. 

Military Hazing Reports

I authored and secured an amendment in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that required thorough reports on the hazing policies, the tracking and reporting protocol, and training procedures for each military branch.  Congress received the reports from each branch of the military in 2014.  I believe that the reports we received from the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force show that substandard tracking systems are resulting in unreliable data, as there is no uniform procedure to track hazing throughout the military branches. 

Hazing in the National Defense Authorization Act
In 2014, I introduced an amendment to the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that required the first ever independent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the anti-hazing efforts of each branch of the military and the Coast Guard. On February 9, 2016, Congress received an independent assessment of hazing in the military. The report concluded that Department of Defense (DOD) has not fully implemented anti-hazing policies, does not know the extent of current implementation, training for servicemembers is unclear, and hazing tracking systems are incomplete and underdeveloped. 

Given these objective findings, I testified in front of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) in March 2016. I called for stronger anti-hazing policies in the FY2017 NDAA. Congress should receive annual reports on DOD’s anti-hazing efforts. Further, DOD must implement department-wide tracking systems that are uniform, comprehensive, and include information on protected classes such as race and religion. Training should be improved for all command levels so all servicemembers can identify it and stop it when they encounter it. Lastly, DOD needs to evaluate the prevalence of hazing in a meaningful way. It is only with these changes that we can eradicate hazing in the military. 

I am pleased to say that all four of these policy recommendations were included in the House-passed version of the FY2017 NDAA. Congress has just  begun to see the results from these studies, and I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all branches of the military and the Coast Guard are effectively implementing anti-hazing policies and reporting incidents as they occur.   

Share Your Story
At the time of Harry’s death, I didn’t know how common his tragedy was - how many other service members had suffered as he did.  But the letters started pouring in – day after day, week after week.  Mothers, friends and service members themselves wrote in excruciating detail what they and their loved ones endured.

I am committed to being a voice for other victims of military hazing, who often feel like they have nowhere to turn. I encourage families and servicemembers to share their stories. Congress needs to hear from you. 

More on Military Hazing

October 18, 2016 My Bills

Accomplishments During the 114th Congress (2014-2016)

In District

Bringing more federal resources to the San Gabriel Valley is one of my top priorities. This is why I partner with federal agencies to ensure that we have access to federal programs and funding that could benefit our region. I am proud to have worked with these agencies and the President’s Administration on the following initiatives.

September 9, 2016 Press Release

PASADENA, CA – Today, 14 Members of Congress, led by Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees urging them to preserve anti-hazing provisions passed by the House in the final version of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The provisions included in the House NDAA originate from H.R. 5060, the Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act that was introduced by Rep. Chu on April 26.

May 10, 2016 In The News
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) added an amendment to the fiscal year 2017 military appropriation bill that includes the text of Rep. Chu's most recent effort. It would require the Department of Defense to create a national database of hazing incidents and submit an annual report on what it is doing to stop hazing through training and response. Chu contends that the military tolerates hazing despite officially prohibiting it. “The Department of Defense doesn’t want to recognize that hazing is a problem in the military.
April 28, 2016 Press Release
On April 27, during markup of the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to create a national database of hazing incidents in the military and to submit an annual report on the DOD’s actions to stop hazing through training and response. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14), is identical to the text of H.R. 5060, the Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act that was introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) on April 26.
April 26, 2016 Press Release
Today, Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) introduced a bill to require the Pentagon to track and make annual reports on the problem on hazing in the military. The Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act is named in honor of Rep. Chu’s nephew, a marine who died after being hazed by his platoon while deployed in Afghanistan in 2011. It is cosponsored by Reps. Jackie Speier (CA-14), Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and Ted Lieu (CA-33). This bill would require the Pentagon to create a database of hazing incidents in the military and to submit an annual report on what is being done to stop hazing through training and response.
April 25, 2016 In The News
“Hazing has no place in our military, and it has a negative impact on military retention and the longterm health of military service members and veterans,” Chu said. “It certainly doesn’t create a bond within a unit. But, what is most alarming is that, for the most part, there has been no justice for the victims. I do think that if there is accountability and if there are those in supervisory positions who actually stop the hazing, then we could see a day when we eliminate hazing in the military.”
March 2, 2016 In The News
“Next month will recognize the fifth anniversary of the death of my nephew, Harry Lew, Chu testified yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee. “In the middle of the night, his fellow Marines took it upon themselves to administer so-called “corrective training” for almost four hours. They tormented, abused and degraded him. They forced him to perform useless, unnecessary exercises while he was clad in his full body armor, carrying a 25-pound sandbag. After they kicked, punched, and stomped on his back, they nearly smothered him with the contents of the sandbag.
March 1, 2016 Press Release
Today, Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) testified before the House Armed Services Committee about the need to address military hazing in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Rep. Chu secured language in the Fiscal Year 2015 NDAA to direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to provide an objective analysis about the current status of hazing in the military. The report, released on February 9, 2016, found a lack of oversight of existing hazing policies put in place by military branches and an uncertainty of to what extent existing policies have been implemented. Rep. Chu testified that annual reporting, better training, stricter guidance, and department-wide evaluations are necessary to put an end to the problem of hazing in the military.
March 1, 2016 In The News
A congresswoman whose nephew committed suicide while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan is pressing Congress to take action after a government watchdog report found the Pentagon isn’t doing enough to prevent hazing. “I’ve made it my mission to end hazing in our armed services because it is unacceptable and indefensible,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.
February 12, 2016 In The News
“We learned that despite having anti-hazing policies in place, these policies are unevenly implemented and done with little oversight,” Chu said. “In addition, the standards among branches can differ radically, with some not even having a system for collecting data on hazing. We cannot claim that any existing prevention and enforcement policies are adequate without understanding the full scope of the problem.”