The Army is investigating allegations of “abusive sexual contact” against a sergeant in charge of sexual assault prevention at Fort Hood, Texas.
The incident comes a week after the Air Force’s officer in charge of sexual assault prevention was charged with sexual battery in Arlington, Va., and is quickly adding to the outrage among lawmakers over the military’s problems with sexual assault.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday ordered the services to retrain and rescreen sexual assault prevention personnel and military recruiters, Pentagon press secretary George Little said Tuesday evening.
Army Secretary John McHugh told Hagel about the Fort Hood sergeant accused of sexual abuse on Tuesday morning. The soldier, who was not named by the Pentagon, has been suspended from all duties at the Texas military post while the investigation is being conducted. No charges have yet been filed.
Last week, President Obama called on the military to step up its game and curb the persistent problem of sexual assault within its ranks. The president’s comments came as the Pentagon released a report estimating there were 26,000 sexual assaults in 2012, an increase of more than a third from 2010.
Lawmakers released a torrent of statements on Tuesday evening condemning the incident, and many said it was only the latest example of the military’s inability to deal with sexual assault.
“To say this report is disturbing would be a gross understatement,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has proposed removing sexual assault prosecutions from the chain of command. “It is time to get serious and get to work reforming the military justice system that clearly isn’t working.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) called the Fort Hood allegations “the latest chapter in a long, sordid history of sexual abuse in our Armed Forces,” and added that combating sexual assault would be a “cornerstone” of this year’s Defense authorization bill.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) also said Tuesday that his committee will act on changes to the military’s judicial code when it takes up the authorization bill next month.
“Tragically, the depth of the sexual assault problem in our military was already overwhelmingly clear before this latest highly disturbing report,” Levin said in a statement.