The Pentagon is feeling the heat as it faces a series of sexual assault allegations involving servicemen. The Army announced Tuesday that a U.S. Sergeant First Class has been dismissed of all duties pending an investigation for sexual assault and other alleged misconduct, only a week after an Air Force Lt. Colonel was accused and arrested for sexual battery.
The Sergeant First Class was assigned as a coordinator for the sexual assault prevention program in Fort Hood, Texas, and is under investigation for possibly forcing one his subordinates into prostitution and sexually assaulting two other subordinates.
In a statement released Tuesday night, Senate Armed Services Committee member Claire McCaskill asked, ”If these allegations are proven, then now is the time for our military leaders to reevaluate who is being put into these positions. Are folks filling these jobs who aren’t succeeding elsewhere? Or are these jobs being given to our best leaders? These allegations only add to the mounting evidence of the need to change our military justice system to better hold perpetrators accountable and protect survivors of sexual assault.”
McCaskill and New Hampshire’s Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, urging him to make all sexual assault prevention jobs “nominative positions,” requiring candidates to complete a rigorous application, screening, and interview process.
“We urge you to consider making Sexual Assault Prevention and Response jobs nominative positions and to ensure that the personnel filling these positions are receiving all necessary and appropriate training and certification,” the senators wrote.
The Missouri senior senator joined msnbc’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss her proposed legislation that would require the Department of Defense to set new criteria for sexual assault prevention leadership positions.
McCaskill explained that part of the problem lies with the military’s flawed protocol to “train their way out” of sexual assault crises and that procedural and cultural changes need to occur. “It’s very hard to micromanage hiring in the military and we shouldn’t be doing that, frankly,” McCaskill said. “But we’re trying to go in a direction to give them clear guidance in the law that the qualifications for this job and the background checks for this job and the certification and the training for this job needs to be put in the law so that everyone understands that this is not a throwaway job.”
Secretary Hagel said in a statement Tuesday night that he plans to direct “all the services to re-train, re-credential, and re-screen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters.” McCaskill said on The Last Word that that was not enough, and the military needs to undergo a cultural makeover.
“The people who commit these crimes, they are not crimes of sex, they are crimes of dominance, violence, control and frankly, you’re going to get some people who are attracted to the military because it is a place where strength is valued. It is a place where violence is accepted under certain circumstances when you’re going after the enemy, so I think it’s going to be very difficult to screen out these people. More importantly, rather than to screen out these people, we need to go after them with effective prosecution and put them in the penitentiary. And part of that is getting victims to come forward.”