Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s plan to re-train troops assigned to stop sexual assaults ran into problems Wednesday before it got started.
To show that the sex abuse crisis was being addressed, Pentagon officials noted that more than 3,000 troops had already undergone training with an outside contractor as Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) since last October.
However, the contractor, the non-profit National Organization for Victim Assistance, said the Defense Department got it wrong. “
“We do not train, not for the military,” said Will Marling, NOVA’s executive director.
Instead, NOVA’s contract with the military was for credentialing and accrediting troops who have already been trained as SARCs in programs run by the service branches, Marling said.
“The military has its own training programs,” he said.
Hagel has directed all the services to “re-train, re-credential, and re-screen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters” following a second incident within a week in which allegations of sex abuse surfaced against a military sexual abuse prevention official .
Hagel discussed the latest incident, which involved a sergeant first class at Fort Hood, Tex., with President Obama at the White House on Tuesday, said George Little, Hagel’s chief spokesman.
Army officials are investigating Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen for setting up a prostitution ring at Fort Hood and sexually assaulting a soldier, according to a report by USA Today. McQueen had been assigned as an Equal Opportunity Advisor and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program coordinator at Fort Hood with the Army’s III Corps before the investigation started.
Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski was arrested and charged with sexual battery for allegedly groping a woman in the parking lot near a strip club about a mile from the Pentagon. Krusinski was serving as the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Office branch chief. He has since been removed from the position.
Little said Obama and Hagel “both expect accountability” up the chain of command to curb sexual assaults in the ranks.
“If people aren’t doing the right thing” as leaders “then it’s probably time for them to move on” and get out of the military, Little said.
Little also appeared to take issue with the comments in Congressional testimony last week by Air Force Chief of Staff Mark A. Welch III, who offered the opinion that sexual assaults in the military might be a reflection of society’s “hookup culture.”
Little said it was Hagel’s view that “it’s not good enough to compare us to the rest of society. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
Earlier this month, the Defense Department issued a report estimating that as many as 26,000 servicemembers may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on survey results. Of those, fewer than 3,400 reported the incident.
The spike in sexual assaults in the military has prompted demands from Congress for the overhaul of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was expected to introduce legislation Thursday to remove sexual assault cases from the military’s chain of command and have them handled by independent prosecutors.
Hagel has previously resisted proposals for eliminating the chain of command in sex assault cases but Little said “he realizes we have to take action. He realizes we face a serious issue.”
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