“I've ... indicated to him that we not only have to step up our game but exponentially go after it," he said.
“This department may be nearing a stage where the frequency of this crime and the perception that there is tolerance of it could very well undermine our ability to effectively carry out the mission and to recruit and retain the good people we need,” Hagel said.
Hagel also called on expanding the rights of victims to include those in the Crime Victims’ Rights Act as well as looking to expand an Air Force pilot program that created a Special Victims Counsel.
He has previously requested that Congress change the military’s judicial code so that commanders cannot overturn guilty verdicts in a post-trial review.
Report finds big increases in sexual assault: The Pentagon’s sexual assault report found there were 3,347 reported cases in 2012, the highest number since the Pentagon began reporting to Congress in 2004.
The report also found an estimated 26,000 instances of sexual assault in 2012, based on the results of a confidential survey conducted once every two years. In 2010, the survey estimated there were 19,000 incidents.
The survey found that 6.1 percent of female service members reported “unwanted sexual contact” in 2012, as well as 1.2 percent of males, which would be 12,000 female service members and 14,000 male service members.
Lawmakers teed off on the report, saying that the increases highlighted the problems the military has in addressing the problem.
The charges against the Air Force officer in charge of sexual assault prevention on Sunday have added fuel to the fire.
“While under our legal system, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, this arrest speaks volumes about the status and effectiveness of the Department of Defense's efforts to address the plague of sexual assaults in the military,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said at an Air Force hearing Tuesday.
US, Russia agree to peace council on Syria: Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart agreed on Tuesday to establish a bilateral peace council, in an attempt to bring the two-year Syrian civil war to an end.
The goal of the council will be to set the parameters for a peaceful end to President Bashar Assad's rule and hand over power to a transitional, coalition government.
Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to the council during meetings held in Moscow between the two top diplomats, according to Reuters.
"The alternative ... is that there is even more violence. The alternative is that Syria heads closer to an abyss, if not over the abyss and into chaos," Kerry told a joint news conference with Lavrov in Moscow.
The move represents a step back by Russia from its previous support for Assad and his forces.
Russia, along with Iran, has been the biggest international supporter of the Assad regime since the war began in 2011.
Moscow has funneled military personnel and equipment into the country via its naval port in Tartus since the early days of the now three-year conflict.
Rebel forces and government troops loyal to Assad have battled to a bloody stalemate, as the United States continues to grapple with taking military action in Syria to end the war.
DOD war funding request is near: The Pentagon's funding request for the final years of the Afghan war will arrive on Capitol Hill by the end of this month, according to the department's No. 2 official.
The request, which will fund U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan until the White House's 2014 drawdown deadline, will be delivered to lawmakers "in the next few weeks," Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday.
Congress had expected the war-financing proposal, known inside the Pentagon as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, earlier this year as part of the department's fiscal 2014 budget blueprint.
But with the Pentagon coping with massive, across-the-board cuts under the administration's sequestration plan, Department of Defense officials needed more time to build the OCO request around those cuts, Carter said during a speech in Washington.
Recent reports claim it will cost the department roughly $6 billion just to move the mountain of weapons, vehicles and equipment out of Afghanistan and back to the United States in time for the 2014 drawdown deadline.
But outstanding questions on what Washington's role will be in postwar Afghanistan, both militarily and politically, have also contributed to the delay, he added.
"Not all of those decisions have been made" by the White House and its allies regarding the American postwar presence in Afghanistan after 2014, Carter noted.
Washington and Kabul have yet to finalize a postwar plan, outlining how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after the deadline and what their mission will be.
In Case You Missed It:
— Navy’s LCS not combat ready
— Obama extends Syria sanctions
— Carter: Strategic review almost complete
— Odierno: Sequester could hinder US in Syria
Follow us on Twitter: @DEFCONHill, @JHerbTheHill, @CMunozTheHill
You can sign up to receive this overnight update via email on The Hill’s homepage.