WASHINGTON – President Obama said Thursday the nation’s military leaders told him they are ashamed of their failure to end sexual abuse in the armed services, and he promised an accelerated effort to find solutions.
We will not stop until we’ve seen this scourge from what is the greatest military in the world eliminated, he told reporters after addressing a large gathering of military leaders to the White House led by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Senior military officers have spoken bluntly in recent days about the problem. Dempsey on Wednesday called it a crisis, and the Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, said Thursday his service’s efforts are failing.
They care about this and they are angry about it, Obama said.
Not only is it a crime, not only is it shameful and disgraceful, but it also is going to make and has made the military less effective than it can be, Obama said.
Those summoned included not just Hagel, Dempsey and the chiefs of each military service but also the civilian heads of each service and senior enlisted advisers.
I heard directly from all of them that they are ashamed by some of what’s happened, Obama said.
The president added that because assault victims may be more likely now to come forward with complaints, the number of reported assaults may increase in the short run.
The problem, which has plagued the military for decades, has been highlighted by recent cases, including that of an Air Force officer who headed a sexual assault prevention office but was arrested on a charge of sexual battery.
Thursday, Army officials said the manager of the sexual assault response program at Fort Campbell, Ky., had been relieved of his post after his arrest in a domestic dispute with his ex-wife. The program he managed was meant to prevent sexual assault and encourage equal opportunity.