The U.S. Army disqualifies 588 soldiers in a shocking move and the case highlights the growing need for better monitoring of the reports of sexual assault violations. As reported by USA TODAY on Feb. 26, the 588 soldiers who were disqualified were mostly members in “positions of trust” like counselors and recruiters. TIME reports that the infractions ranged from sexual assault to child abuse to drunken driving.
The news of 588 disqualified soldiers is especially troubling because the number is much higher than previous reports from the Army indicated. The initial number the Army reported last summer after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered that troops in sensitive positions be screened for previous criminal or unethical behavior was around 10 times lower.
"The numbers are staggering," Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said. "I also want to applaud the leadership in the Department of Defense for scrubbing what has been a cancerous culture."
Last year, the U.S. military suspended 55 soldiers from their duties as directors in matters of sexual assault after discovering they had committed crimes related to alcohol abuse and children also, the Pentagon reported.
The soldiers were identified during a review of the records of the directors in cases of sexual assault ordered by the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, after a Pentagon report released in May revealed that more than 26 thousand soldiers experienced an episode of "unwanted sexual contact" in 2012.
Although the Army disqualifies 588 soldiers, the Defense Department has stepped up efforts to prosecute those responsible for such crimes, establishing a special victims unit to handle cases and working to improve monitoring and reporting of violations.
According to recent statistics, from Oct. 2012 until June 2013 there have been a recorded 3,553 cases of sexual abuse compared to 2,434 during the same period last year, representing an increase of 46 percent. However, it's not clear if the increase reflects growth in the number of attacks or those who report cases of abuse. Representatives of the Department of Defense suggest that the increasing numbers is a sign that people have lost their fear to report these cases.
"We will continue working to better ensure we select the very best people for these posts, and that the chain of command knows what is expected of them, and how important this work is to the Army," Army spokesman Col. David Patterson expressed.
Although the U.S. Army disqualifies these 588 soldiers for some pretty serious reasons, military officials insist that the Army is making strong efforts to curb sexual assaults in the military.