US military chiefs under fire for sexual assault

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US military chiefs under fire for sexual assault

by AFP Videos 0:37 mins

US military chiefs under fire for sexual assault

by AFP Videos 0:37 mins

SHOTLIST: WASHINGTON, JUNE 4, 2013, SOURCE: POOL **NO RESALE for non-editorial purposes** SOUNDBITE 1 Gen. Martin Dempsey (man), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (English, 14 sec): "It's a crime that demands accountability and consequences. It betrays the very trust on which our profession is founded. We are acting swiftly and deliberately to change a climate that has become a bit complacent." SOUNDBITE 2 Senator Claire McCaskill (woman), Member, Senate Armed Services Committee (English, 24 sec): "My years of experience in this area tell me they are committing crimes of domination and violence. This isn't about sex. This is about assaultive domination and violence." -WIDE senators seated -PAN of military chiefs during hearing -WIDE Gen. Dempsey walking --------------------------------------- AFP TEXT STORY: US-military-sex-crime,2ndlead US military chiefs under fire over sexual assaults by Dan De Luce =(PICTURE)= WASHINGTON, June 4, 2013 (AFP) - US military chiefs clashed with lawmakers Tuesday over how to stem an epidemic of sexual assaults in the ranks, with the top brass arguing against an overhaul of the force's justice system. While vowing to stamp out what the problem, the generals cautioned senators against proposals that would strip commanders of authority to refer sexual assault cases for trial, alter sentences or overturn verdicts. "I understand the credibility of the armed forces, the credibility of the army are at stake," General Ray Odierno, the US Army's chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "But we cannot simply legislate our way out of this problem," he said. His comments came at a packed hearing in which chiefs of all the armed services and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, made an unusual joint appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where they faced tough questioning from impatient lawmakers. A rise in rapes and sexual assaults -- along with a spate of high-profile cases in recent weeks -- has put military leaders on the defensive. Numerous proposals are circulating in Congress attempting to address the crisis, with some lawmakers backing bills to limit or remove the commanders' traditional role in weighing in on legal cases affecting their troops. Senator Claire McCaskill berated the four-star generals, saying the military was years behind the civilian world and misunderstood the problem -- confusing rape and other crimes with sexual harassment at the work place. "This isn't about sex. It's about assaultive domination and violence," McCaskill said. The force needed to make dramatic changes to better prosecute sexual predators in their ranks and to make it easier for rape victims to come forward, she said. Other lawmakers argued that other countries, including some European allies and Israel, had made similar changes to their own military legal codes. But Dempsey, the military's top-ranking officer, said restricting a commander too severely would undermine an officer's ability to ensure discipline in a unit. "Our goal should be to hold commanders more accountable, not render them less able to help us correct this crisis," he said. The spike in sexual assault cases were so alarming that Republican Senator John McCain, a decorated veteran, told the generals he had recently told a mother he could not give "unqualified support" for her daughter's decision to join the military. The commandant of the US Marine Corps, General James Amos, and other chiefs acknowledged the military had failed to see the issue as a top priority in years past but now were seized with the issue. "We hear you loud and clear." Amos said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has called the sexual assault problem a "scourge," has suggested amending the military's legal code to prohibit commanders from tossing out verdicts after a trial. Although Hagel initially said he opposed more radical proposals for scaling back a commander's authority, the Pentagon chief has since said he is open to discussing all options with lawmakers. A wave of embarrassing revelations and high-profile sexual assault cases have fueled calls for urgent action. An Air Force general earlier this year tossed out a guilty verdict against an officer who was convicted of sexual assault in a trial, and has subsequently defended the move. The head of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention and response program, meanwhile, was arrested for sexual battery near the Pentagon last month. And a sergeant at the West Point military academy faces allegations he secretly filmed female cadets without their consent, sometimes when they were in the shower. ddl/

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