On Friday an airman assigned to the Air Force Academy was convicted at a general court martial of aggravated sexual conduct against a fellow female airman.
Senior Airman Aaron C. Stubbs, assigned to the 10th Security Forces Squadron, was sentenced to 15 months confinement, reduced in grade to airman basic, and dishonorably discharged.
A panel of seven officers returned the verdict for the court martial that began on Aug. 6.
Stubbs' conviction comes as Congress and the Defense Department debate how sexual assault cases should be prosecuted and whether a commander should play a role in the prosecution.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, then the chief of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention and response branch, was arrested in May and charged with sexual battery after allegedly groping a woman outside a strip club near the Pentagon. The service hired a woman, Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, who investigated the abuse of female recruits by trainers at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to serve in the post.
Earlier in the year, Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, ignited a firestorm when he chose to overturn the sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson III, a fellow fighter pilot who was accused of fondling a woman as she slept in his guest bedroom.
An estimated 26,000 active-duty troops had unwanted sexual contact in fiscal 2012, up from about 19,300 in 2010, according to a report the Pentagon released earlier this year. By comparison, 3,374 troops reported sexual assaults last year, an increase of 5.7 percent from the previous year, according to the report.
Advocates say the discrepancy in the figures shows the degree to which victims are reluctant to come forward.
"A victim doesn't have to go to the commander," Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said when asked why military leadership opposes legislation introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand D-N.Y., to remove the chain of command from the prosecution of sexual assaults.
The Defense Department is considering wider adoption of an Air Force program that provides special counsel to victims of sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact, Dempsey said.
Meanwhile the White House has nominated a female executive at SAIC and former assistant secretary of defense to be the next Air Force secretary.