Hagel: Sexual assault ‘a profound betrayal’

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point on Saturday that sexual assaults would be a “a profound betrayal” of their oaths to the Army.

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Hagel challenged the 2013 West Point graduates to “be the generation of leaders who stop” internal issues like sexual assaults, alcoholism and suicide, which he said were “debilitating, incendiary and destructive” to the Army’s strength.

“Sexual harassment and assault are a profound betrayal of sacred oaths and sacred trust,” Hagel said during his speech. “This scourge must be stamped out. We’re all accountable for ensuring that this happens. We can't fail the Army or America. We can't fail each other.”

The speech follows remarks at the U.S. Naval Academy this week from President Obama, who said assaults “threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong.”

“That’s why we have to be determined to stop these crimes — they’ve got no place in the greatest military on earth,” Obama said in an address to new officers of the Navy and Marine Corps.

The Obama administration and the Pentagon have been wrestling with a rise in the number of reported sexual assaults in the military.

Additionally, lawmakers have questioned whether the Army is taking the issue seriously after a series of reports of incidents, including most recently the arrest of an Air Force officer who ran the service's Sexual Assault and Prevention Office for alleged sexual battery in a Washington, D.C., suburb earlier this month.

Hagel cited Obama’s remarks to the Naval officers in his speech to the Army graduates on Saturday.