Hagel 'frustrated' with military's effort to curb sexual abuse

"There is [growing] frustration on the part of this secretary" with continued reports of sexual abuse in the military, Little told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday. 

ADVERTISEMENT
"We have to take action and take action swiftly," Little added. 

His comments come after another service member assigned to the military's sexual assault prevention units was accused of sexual abuse. 

Army officials at Ft. Hood, Texas, are investigating allegations of “abusive sexual contact” against an Army sergeant in charge of sexual assault prevention at the military base. 

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.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) called the latest 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.

Little said Hagel was informed of the Ft. Hood allegations and ongoing Army inquiry into the case Tuesday morning, ahead of the Pentagon chief's meeting at the White House. 

"Both the secretary and the president expect action ... both expect accountability" from the department and armed services, Little added. "This is a top priority." 

Last week, 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.

As a result, Hagel has ordered weekly briefings from the Joint Chiefs of Staff on service-led initiatives to address instances of sexual abuse within the ranks. 

The Pentagon chief is also drafting new department-wide guidance to increase training and screening of service members before they are assigned to sexual assault prevention units, according to Little. 

While the details of the new training and screening process are still being worked out, Little said it was a "fair assumption" the military's entire cadre of current sexual assault prevention counselors will have to be retrained under the new guidance. 

Hagel and the rest of the Department of Defense want to "ensure we have the right people with the right background" doing the sexual assault prevention mission, he added. 

Pentagon officials expect a final version of the guidance to be released no later than Thursday, according to Little.