The Pentagon was scrambling today to prove to Congress that they’re on top of handling the latest sex-abuse scandal to weigh on the department.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was informed yesterday about the allegations of criminal behavior against an Army sergeant first class who was a sexual assault prevention and response coordinator at Fort Hood. “I cannot convey strongly enough his frustration, anger, and disappointment over these troubling allegations and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
Hagel met with Army Secretary John McHugh “and directed him to fully investigate this matter rapidly, to discover the extent of these allegations, and to ensure that all of those who might be involved are dealt with appropriately.”
The soldier being investigated allegedly employed one female private first class as a prostitute and assaulted another when she refused to join his prostitution ring.
The newest report comes just a week after the chief of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention and response branch was arrested on sexual battery charges in Arlington, Va.
The accused soldier at Fort Hood was immediately suspended from all duties by the chain of command once the allegations were brought to the command’s attention, according to the Army, though no charges have yet been filed.
A recent Pentagon report said three sexual assaults an hour took place in 2012.
During testimony last week before the House Appropriations Committee Defense subcommittee, McHugh said the assaults are “so contrary to everything upon which the Army was built.”
“To see this kind of activity happening in our ranks is really heart wrenching and sickening,” he said.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) called the newest allegations “the latest chapter in a long, sordid history of sexual abuse in our Armed Forces.”
“I see no meaningful distinction between complacency or complicity in the military’s latest failure to uphold their own standards of conduct. Nor do I see a distinction between the service member who orchestrated this offense and the chain of command that was either oblivious to or tolerant of criminal behavior,” said McKeon, who has a granddaughter in the Army. “Both are accountable for this appalling breach of trust with their subordinates and their failure to act worthy of their responsibilities as leaders.”
“If true, the latest sexual assault allegation released by the Army is deeply disturbing and extremely troubling. How can our military be so effective at protecting our nation, yet so ineffective at protecting those who serve?” said ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
“This is the second service member recently accused of sexual assault whose job in the military, in part, is to be one of the leaders charged with stopping such assaults in the military. Clearly, there is a serious issue with how individuals for this position are selected,” Smith continued. “This latest incident clearly demonstrates that the military’s efforts to prevent sexual assault are failing miserably.”
McKeon called on Hagel “to conduct a review of the military and civilian leadership within the military services to determine whether they continue to hold his trust and his confidence to lead in this area.”
“With regard to sexual assault, my confidence in them is deeply shaken,” the chairman added.