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Leaders say there's 'no silver bullet' to solve sexual assault in the military

Secretaries of Defense Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, and President Obama have all used the same line to describe the difficulty of solving the problem of sexual...

Watch: No ‘silver bullet’ to solve sexual assault in the military, leaders say

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Last Thursday, President Obama said there was “no silver bullet” to solve the problem of sexual assault in the military. The next day, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel echoed his commander-in-chief, saying again that “there is no silver bullet” to defeat this issue.

A year ago, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta used the same phrasing to qualify the Department of Defense’s new package of measures to combat sexual assault in the military. “Look,” he said, “there is no silver bullet when it comes to this issue.”

But the metaphor goes back further than 2012. As msnbc’s Meredith Clark pointed out, Air Force brigadier general K.C. McClain told reporters in 2005 “that a series of actions the Pentagon was taking—again to combat sexual assault—was ‘not a silver bullet. To do this right, it is going to take time,’ she said.”

“During that same period of time more and more service members have been raped and abused by their colleagues,” writes Clark. ”Perhaps it might be time to move on from the “silver bullet” theory and start looking for more effective weapons to combat the problem.”

All this comes in the wake of yet another case of sexual harassment at the U.S. military academy of West Point, where a sergeant was accused Wednesday of surreptitiously video-taping female cadets in the showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael McClendon has been charged with four counts of indecent acts, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and violations of good order and discipline.

McClendon was himself a health, welfare and discipline adviser at the academy.

According to the Pentagon, 3,374 instances of sexual assault were reported last year, but officials estimate that the actual number of assaults may be closer to 26,000.

Some are trying to fight the problem from outside the military. A recently proposed bill–the Military Justice Improvement Act– would take the reporting and investigation process out of the chain of command and empower military prosecutors in their place.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who introduced the bill, says it’s aimed at stopping the rising incidence of sexual assault in the military by changing the current system–which is clearly not working.

Watch: No 'silver bullet' to solve sexual assault in the military, leaders say

Updated