by Sam Levin
This week, the United States Army announced that one of its sergeants in Fort Hood, Texas, is facing allegations of pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.
The accusations are especially damning because that sergeant worked in the sexual harassment and assault prevention and response program.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri who has been very vocal about this issue in recent weeks, has introduced legislation aimed at reforming the military justice system with new criteria for those who can serve in sexual assault prevention positions.
"Now is the time for our military leaders to reevaluate who is being put into these positions," McCaskill says in a statement. "Are folks filling these jobs who aren't succeeding elsewhere? Or are these jobs being given to our best leaders? These allegations call for a review and possible changes to personnel and the training they receive. There is a clear need to change our military justice system to better hold perpetrators accountable and protect survivors of sexual assault."
Here's video of her recent comments.
Last week, McCaskill, alongside Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, urged Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to strengthen the military's sexual assault prevention programs.
This latest legislation, which the two introduced yesterday, would require the Secretary of Defense to review the sufficiency of training, qualifications and experience of personnel responsible for sexual assault prevention and response and would also "take corrective action" regarding personnel assigned to these duties who are "deemed to lack the necessary training, qualifications or experience," her office says.
That could involve re-training, re-certification or reassignment.
The legislation also directs officials to put into effect necessary regulations setting minimum levels for training, qualifications and experience for these services.
In the announcement of the allegations, Secretary of the Army John McHugh says in a statement:
This is so contrary to everything upon which the Army was built. To see this kind of activity happening in our ranks is really heart wrenching and sickening....
As I said to our new brigadier general corps when I spoke to them about two weeks ago, "You can do everything from this point forward in your military career perfectly, but if you fail on this, you have failed the Army."
Here's McCaskill's full press release followed by Hagel's response to her last week.
In Wake of Latest Allegations, McCaskill and Klobuchar Introduce Legislation Requiring New Criteria for Who Can Serve in Sexual Assault Prevention Positions
Senators--both former prosecutors--draft bill following allegations of violence carried out by a Soldier assigned to sexual assault prevention at Fort Hood
WASHINGTON - In the wake of new allegations of sexual violence allegedly carried out by a Soldier assigned to sexual assault prevention at Fort Hood, Tex., U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) today introduced legislation to require the Department of Defense to establish strict new criteria for who can serve in such positions throughout the U.S. Armed Forces.
"Now is the time for our military leaders to reevaluate who is being put into these positions," McCaskill said. "Are folks filling these jobs who aren't succeeding elsewhere? Or are these jobs being given to our best leaders? These allegations call for a review and possible changes to personnel and the training they receive. There is a clear need to change our military justice system to better hold perpetrators accountable and protect survivors of sexual assault."
Last week, McCaskill and Klobuchar urged Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to take action to strengthen sexual assault prevention programs in the military. In their letter, the Senators called on him to elevate the rank of the personnel assigned to lead sexual assault prevention and response programs and to ensure the leaders have the necessary experience and qualifications. Under the Senators' legislation, the Secretary of Defense will be required to:
-Review the sufficiency of training, qualifications, and experience of personnel responsible for sexual assault prevention and response within the military services, as well as current training and certification programs for these personnel.
-Take corrective action in regard to any personnel assigned to sexual assault prevention and response duties who are deemed to lack the necessary training, qualifications, or experience. Such corrective action may include re-training, re-certification, or reassignment to duties unrelated to sexual assault prevention and response.
-Promulgate any necessary regulations setting minimum levels for training, qualifications, and experience necessary for military and civilian personnel responsible for sexual assault prevention and response within the military services.
-The U.S. Army announced last night that allegations of pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates are being brought against a sergeant who works in Fort Hood's Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention and Response program. The Soldier had been assigned as an Equal Opportunity Advisor and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program coordinator when the allegations surfaced. The new revelations come after the Air Force officer in charge of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response was arrested outside a Virginia bar for sexual battery.
-In response to a recent sexual assault case at Aviano Air Base in Italy, McCaskill grilled military leaders in several Senate hearings and has introduced legislation that would curtail the authority of military commanders to dismiss jury convictions against sex offenders. McCaskill's bill would also require written justifications when sentences are lessened or commuted.