WASHINGTON — The Navy disqualified 151 sailors and civilians last year from positions of trust following a service-led review that focused on sexual assault prevention, a Navy spokesman told Stars and Stripes.
In May 2013, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed the services to conduct a review of their recruiters, sexual assault response coordinators and victims’ advocates to make sure they were suitable for those positions. The directive came in the wake of several high-profile sexual assault scandals that highlighted the larger problem of sexual assault plaguing the military.
About 5,400 incidents of sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact were reported within the U.S. military last fiscal year, the Pentagon disclosed last month, a 60 percent increase from 2012. Only a fraction of sexual assault incidents are actually reported, officials say.
The Navy’s initial review covered 10,000 people.
“What we came back with was a number of five Navy [people] that didn’t meet the standards that were necessary to serve in those positions,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello.
The probe was soon expanded to include everyone involved in the Navy’s sexual assault prevention and response program, including NCIS investigators who deal with sexual assault cases, as well as trainers who conduct sexual assault training at the unit level and at school houses. The review ultimately covered about 20,000 sailors and civilians.
“[The expanded review was] what we thought was in the spirit of what the secretary of defense was asking,” Servello said.
The probe revealed that 151 personnel didn’t meet the standards required. The “vast majority” of those either didn’t receive the requisite training or certification, or the requisite training and certification wasn’t documented properly, according to Servello. The Navy is pursuing “remediation” and trying to get those people certified and properly trained so that they can resume their duties, he said.
Others were permanently barred from those positions.
“There were folks that … just didn’t meet the standards that we were comfortable with to have them serve in these important positions, either as their primary job or as an add-on responsibility,” Servello said. “They were removed from those positions.”
Those people were reassigned, or in some cases, the added responsibility of participating in the command sexual assault prevention and response program was removed from their duties, according to Servello.
The Navy was unable to provide a statistical breakdown for numbers of individuals temporarily or permanently disqualified.
Of the 151, Servello is not aware of any that have been accused of sexual assault, nor is he aware of any criminal investigations that have been launched as a result of the review.
Servello said he didn’t know how Navy personnel were able to get into those positions of trust without the proper qualifications.
The review was completed last summer, and remediations and removals of personnel began as soon as the deficiencies were discovered, according to Servello.
Asked why this information was only now coming to light long after it had been reported to Hagel, Servello said:
“I don’t have a good answer for you,” he said. “Really it was because you [reporters] started asking these questions, and so we as spokesmen started digging in and finding [this information] over the last couple of days.”
The disqualifications were first reported Wednesday in USA Today.
Other services conducted their own reviews, with widely different results.
In February, the Army announced it had suspended 588 out of about 20,000 personnel that were reviewed for a range of missteps, including sexual assault. “To date, 79 are pending separation from the Army,” Col. David H. Patterson Jr. said at the time.
An Air Force spokeswoman said two personnel from the service have been disqualified from positions of trust. She did not provide any additional details.
Thus far, the Marine Corps hasn’t disqualified anyone in the wake of their review.