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Cleaning up shop: Marine Corps inspectors on fleetwide hunt for anything offensive

Jun. 18, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ()


How do you deal with sexually inappropriate images, magazines or computer content in your workplace? Send is a letter.

Marine inspectors have less than two weeks to roam all public working and community barracks spaces and root out anything that hints at being lewd, crude or just plain offensive to your co-workers.

Marine inspectors have less than two weeks to roam all public working and community barracks spaces and root out anything that hints at being lewd, crude or just plain offensive to your co-workers.

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Marine inspectors have less than two weeks to roam all public working and community barracks spaces and root out anything that hints at being lewd, crude or just plain offensive to your co-workers.

The workplace inspections are a mandate from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as part of ongoing efforts to curb sexual assaults plaguing the services — and a culture that has tolerated them for too long.

Hagel ordered in May that the Army, Navy and Marine Corps conduct inspections similar to ones conducted by the Air Force last year.

Headquarters Marine Corps outlined how it wants the inspections to proceed June 14 with Marine administrative message 291/13. Leaders have since been hustling to execute the order.

Here’s all you need to know before the inspections hit your command:

Q. Who are the inspectors?

A. Mabus has entrusted inspections to local command leadership. “It seemed that it was better to leave it to the local, not just command authority, but everyone working in that workplace to define,” Mabus told reporters June 13.

Commanding officers, officers-in-charge and civilian directors will direct the inspections, but the actual execution can be entrusted to no lower than E-7s — gunnies and chiefs.

Q. What will be considered offensive?

A. Inspectors will be looking for “materials that create a degrading, hostile or offensive work environment.”

This will largely be open to interpretation of local commands.

Mabus said he’s largely trusting the gut reaction of leaders. It’s a situation where an inspector would probably know it when he or she sees it, Mabus said. He was referencing a a quote from the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. The judge, finding it difficult to define pornography, said, “I know it when I see it.”

“It just seemed to be the best way to do it,” Mabus said of the inspections, while talking to reporters at a Defense Writers Group meeting June 13 in Washington.

Q. When will inspections occur?

A. All commands must complete their inspections by June 28. Inspection results will be due to Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs, by July 9. From there, they will be forwarded to DoD.

Q. What is subject to inspection?

A. All Marine, sailor, and civilian workspaces to include: offices, ships, aircraft, government vehicles, hangars, ready rooms, conference rooms, cubicles, storage rooms, tool and equipment rooms, workshops, breakrooms, galleys, recreation areas, Navy and Marine Corps Exchanges and even the heads.

Though exchanges will be searched, officials said inspectors will not be pulling potentially objectionable content, such as magazines, off of sale racks.

Marine and Navy schoolhouses, including Marine Corps University, The Basic School, the Naval Academy and the Marine Corps recruit depots are also subject to the inspections.

Common areas of barracks and bachelor quarters, along with on-base public-private venture housing also will be searched.Community spaces in off-base PPV barracks will be inspected, so long as there are no legal stipulations in the contract that would prevent it.

Q. What isn’t subject to inspection?

A. Inspectors are not supposed to dig into your government laptop or desktop computers, the lone exception being if you have an inappropriate screen saver.

Also free from inspection: individual barracks rooms and personal living quarters, your assigned desk and cabinets, your clothing, your locker, purses, briefcases, backpacks, your vehicle and your personal electronics, such as iPads and iPhones.

Q. So, am I safe if I have potentially offensive content on my work computer?

A. Definitely not. While you’re free from this inspection, you’re still subject to existing rules. Commands “have a continuing responsibility to ensure appropriate procedures are in place which prevent degrading, offensive or unlawful material from being stored on government computers,” the MARADMIN states.

Q. What happens to materials deemed inappropriate by inspectors?

A. Inspectors will ask the owner of the material to remove it from the workspace immediately. In most cases, it will not be confiscated. However, inspectors are told to seize anything that constitutes contraband. The MARADMIN defines contraband as “materials that are lewd, lascivious, obscene, or pornographic, as well as supremacist images, publications or materials.” Again, discretion has been given to local commands to make a judgment call in these cases.

Q. Can sailors or Marines face further disciplinary action?

A. It depends on what inspectors find, the MARADMIN states. “If evidence of a crime is discovered during an inspection ... individuals conducting the inspection are to immediately contact the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and comply with applicable standard procedures.”

The MARADMIN does not provide an all-inclusive list but gives examples such as child pornography, illegal drugs and paraphernalia, unauthorized weapons and stolen property.

Q. What if inspections turn up materials that can’t be easily removed, such as graffiti in the head?

A. A Navy official said items will be removed “by the most appropriate means possible.” In other words, they could be physically removed, or in the case of graffiti, painted over or sanded down.

Q. What if inspectors are unsure whether something is inappropriate?

A. Commands have been instructed to use their equal opportunity advisers, staff judge advocates and command counsel as sounding boards to help determine whether something is offensive and/or degrading. They can also assist with suspected criminal activity. As a guide, supervisors are told to remove any material that a “reasonable person would consider degrading or offensive.”

Q. Are there plans for future inspections?

A. Yes. It’s not a “one-time process,” Mabus told reporters.

“The Inspector General of the Marine Corps is to review and address this ongoing requirement during regular command inspections and assessments,” the MARADMIN states.

Staff writers Jacqueline Klimas and Hope Hodge contributed to this report.

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