WASHINGTON — A soldier assigned to coordinate a sexual-assault prevention program in Texas is under investigation for “abusive sexual contact” and other alleged misconduct and has been suspended from his duties, the Army announced Tuesday.
Just last week an Air Force officer who headed a sexual-assault prevention office was himself arrested on charges of groping a woman in a parking lot.
The Army said a sergeant first class, whose name was not released, is accused of pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates. He is being investigated by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. No charges have been filed.
He had been assigned as an equal opportunity adviser and coordinator of a sexual harassment-assault prevention program at the Army’s 3rd Corps headquarters at Fort Hood, Texas, when the allegation arose, the Army said.
“To protect the integrity of the investigative process and the rights of all persons involved, no more information will be released at this time,” an Army statement said.
The back-to-back Army and Air Force cases highlight a problem that is drawing increased scrutiny in Congress and expressions of frustration from top Pentagon leaders. Pentagon press secretary George Little said after Tuesday’s announcement that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is angry and disappointed at “these troubling allegations and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply.”
Little said Hagel met with Army Secretary John McHugh earlier Tuesday and ordered 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.”
Hagel also is directing all the services to retrain, recredential, and rescreen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters, Little said.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a statement Tuesday evening saying his panel is considering a number of measures to counter the problem, including changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and will act on them next month.
The Army announcement comes as the Pentagon continues to struggle with what it calls a growing epidemic of sexual assaults across the military. In a report last week, the Defense Department estimated that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on survey results.