The United States has ordered a probe into reports of yet another case of sexual assault in its military, with Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel asserting that a zero tolerance policy will be adopted against such a misconduct.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Hagel was informed about the allegations of criminal behaviour against a US army sergeant (first class), who was a sexual assault prevention and response coordinator at Fort Hood, Texas.
"I cannot convey strongly enough his frustration, anger, and disappointment over these troubling allegations and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply," Little said. "This is so contrary to everything upon which the Army was built," he noted.
The Pentagon statement came after the US army announced that the sergeant is under investigation for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates. The accused was immediately suspended from all duties by the chain of command once the allegations were brought to its attention. There have been no charges filed or preferred at this time.
Hagel met Army Secretary John McHugh and directed him to fully investigate this matter rapidly and discover the extent of these allegations to ensure that all of those who might be involved are dealt appropriately, Little said.
"To address the broader concerns that have arisen out of these allegations and other recent events, Hagel is directing all the services to re-train, re-credential, and re-screen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters," he said.
Asserting that sexual assault is a crime and will be treated as such, Little said the safety, integrity, and well-being of every service member and the success of the mission hang in the balance.
"Hagel is looking urgently at every course of action to stamp out this deplorable conduct and ensure that those individuals up and down the chain of command who tolerate or engage in this behaviour are appropriately held accountable," he said.
Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the senate armed services committee, said a number of measures, including changes to the uniform code of military justice, are under consideration to address sexual assault and related issues.
The committee will act on them during its consideration of the National Defence Authorisation Act next month. House armed services committee chairman Howard P 'Buck' McKeon also expressed his outrage on the reports.
McKeon called on Hagel to conduct a review of the military and civilian leadership within the military services to determine whether they continue to hold his trust and his confidence to lead in this area.
Image: A woman trains to become a US marine | Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images