Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday outlined a handful of new initiatives he said will fundamentally change the way the military deals with sexual assaults, just days after the Pentagon released its annual report on sexual assaults involving servicemembers.
Sexual assault is ”œa violation of everything that the military stands for,” Panetta said in a press conference after a closed-door discussion with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. ”œWe need to do more.”
Among the new initiatives: establishing a ”œspecial victims unit” within each service branch for specially trained investigators and prosecutors, allowing Reserve and National Guard members who have been sexually assaulted on active duty to remain on active status to receive treatment, and elevating the disposition authority for the most serious cases to a special court-martial convening authority. That means that in cases of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy and attempts to commit those offenses, the case would be reported to and addressed by at least a colonel or Navy captain.
Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said sexual assault ”œerodes the very fabric of our profession.”
”œOur profession is built on trust, and this particular crime erodes that trust,” he said.