Barack Obama, Martin Dempsey

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, left, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and the service secretaries, service chiefs, and senior enlisted advisers to discuss sexual assault in the military in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 16, 2013.

(WASHINGTON) — The Air Force’s top general said Friday that sexual assaults in his branch of the military typically involve alcohol use and can be traced to a lack of respect for women.

“We have a problem with respect for women that leads to many of the situations that result in sexual assault in our Air Force,” Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters in a lengthy interview in his Pentagon offices.

He spoke one day after he and other military leaders were summoned to the White House to discuss the sexual assault problem with President Barack Obama, who has expressed impatience with the Pentagon’s failure to solve it.

Welsh said combatting the problem, which he characterized as a crisis, is his No. 1 priority as the Air Force chief of staff. He said he reviews every reported case of sexual assault; last year there were 792 in the Air Force.

Welsh addressed criticism about his comment last week, in response to questions at a congressional hearing, that the problem can be explained in part by a “hook-up mentality” in the wider society. Some said his remark implied that the blame rests mainly with victims.

“If I had this to do over again, I would take more time to answer the question and not try to compress it,” he said, adding that his point was that every person who enters the Air Force needs to be instructed in “this idea of respect, inclusion, diversity and value of every individual.”

“Now, I didn’t say it that way in the hearing, and I wish I had because I think it gave, especially victims, the opportunity for someone to interpret what I said as blaming the victims,” he said, adding that as a result, “I am sorry about that because there is nothing that is farther from the truth.”

Obama said after Thursday’s meeting with the military leaders that he is determined to eliminate the “scourge” of sexual assault in the military, while cautioning that it will take a long and sustained effort by all military members.

“There is no silver bullet to solving this problem,” Obama said.

 

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Welsh: Open to all options to stop military sexual assault

By Jennifer Hlad

Stars and Stripes
Published: May 17, 2013
Welsh

Gen. Mark A. Welsh told reporters Friday morning that he is “open” to taking some of the UCMJ authority that exists now on sex crimes out of the chain of command.
Scott M. Ash/U.S. Air Force/File photo

WASHINGTON — As the president continues to press top military brass to stop sexual assaults and a third man in charge of sexual assault prevention is accused of misconduct, the Air Force chief of staff said he’s open to doing what advocates have been suggesting for years: Removing the authority to prosecute sex crimes from the chain of command.

Currently, commanders are responsible for initiating courts-martial against alleged attackers in their own chain of command, and for reviewing the results of courts-martial. Victims and advocates say that system discourages victims from reporting and can lead to problems when the accused has a better reputation within the unit than the victim does.

Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters Friday morning that he believes “all options should be on the table” for addressing sexual assault, and that he is “open” to taking some of the UCMJ authority that exists now on sex crimes out of the chain of command. He also said he believes it’s time to strip from commanders the ability to reverse courts-martial findings, though he said he believes commanders should retain the authority to reduce sentences.

The issue came into the spotlight earlier this year, when an Air Force lieutenant general decided to overturn the sexual assault conviction and sentence of a fighter pilot in Italy.

 

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US military ordered to recertify sexual assault prevention personnel

Defence secretary Chuck Hagel moves to quell outrage in order to each branch of military to address sexual assault issue

  • Associated Press in Washington
  • guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 May 2013 16.47 EDT
Hagel And Dempsey

Defence secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey at a briefing about sexual assault in the military. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Defence secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday ordered the military to recertify every person involved in programmes designed to prevent and respond to sexual assault, an acknowledgement that assaults have escalated beyond the Pentagon’s control.

He said this step is one among many that will be taken to fix the problem of sexual abuse and sexual harassment within every branch of the military.

At a news conference with General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Hagel said he believes alcohol use is “a very big factor” in many sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, but there are many pieces to the problem.

Hagel said it has become clear to him since taking office in February that holding people accountable for their actions is important, but simply firing people is not a solution.

“Who are you going to fire?” he asked.

 

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