Does the Military Have a Drinking Problem?

Does the Military Have a Drinking Problem?

By Victoria Kim 06/14/13

Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins blames alcohol abuse for fueling sex crimes in the military.

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"Drink lightly and leave early." Photo via

A female Army officer has written an op-ed in The Washington Post blaming "rampant alcohol abuse" for much of the military's growing sexual assault problem. Noting that most of the recent high-profile military sexual assault cases involved alcohol in some form, Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins blames drink for turning "upstanding, highly disciplined soldiers" into "leering fools." US Army data show that almost 20% of personnel report problem drinking, and recent studies have shown that binge drinking continues to rise within the ranks. Robbins relates warning new recruits to be wary when fellow soldiers are drinking, advising them to "drink lightly and leave early."

Why is this? Robbins says military culture fosters off-duty association, where, "after a few drinks with the guys, official lectures on mutual respect are forgotten by otherwise decent people." To combat this, she says, soldiers should be drilled on how to manage social situations, including how to react against sexual predators. This issue has been under scrutiny lately since a recent report revealed there were 26,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2012. Today, the House of Representatives passed its annual defense spending bill, which contained measures to crack down on sexual assault in the military. The Senate has yet to vote on its version of the bill, which also addresses sex crimes.