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Watchdog Asks DoD to Remove Sexual Assault Chief

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Pressure is mounting on U.S. military leaders to remove the Army two-star general in charge of overseeing the Pentagon's sexual assault policy after he was accused of intimidating whistleblowers in Afghanistan.

A government watchdog -- the Project on Government Oversight -- sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking him to remove Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton from his command of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the Pentagon.

The letter cites a report by the Department of Defense Inspector General which found Patton, who was then the deputy commander of an Afghan training mission, had "restricted subordinates from communicating with IG investigators."

DoD IG investigators were there to collect information on potential patient abuses and corruption at an Afghan hospital funded by U.S. taxpayers. The Dawood National Military Hospital in Afghanistan received national attention in 2011 after the Wall Street Journal published photos of soldiers starving with open wounds infested with maggots.

The DoD IG discovered that Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the former commander of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, and his deputy, Patton, sent e-mails to subordinates restricting them from working with IG investigators.

Following the investigation, Caldwell was forced to retire. He relinquished command of the U.S. Army North-Fifth Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in September.

The topic of sexual assault has similarly gained plenty of attention for the military. Recent surveys have seen a considerable increase in reports of assault across the services leaving Pentagon and Congressional leaders worried.

A recent Defense Department survey said that sexual assault incidents in the ranks increased in 2012 to 26,000 from 19,000 in 2010. A survey of the service academies also found an increase in sexual assault within all three academies.

"Given the DoD IG's finding, how can we now trust some of our most sensitive whisleblower cases, especially those involving reports of sexual assault and rape, to a leader demonstrably willing and able to silence lawful whistleblower activity," the POGO letter states. "As you and Members of Congress struggle to end the sexual assault epidemic in the military, to leave Patton in place would send the wrong signal at this critical time."

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Sexual Assault Afghanistan Michael Hoffman
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