Background reviews prompt removal of military personnel from sensitive jobs


The reviews were ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in reaction to a rising number of sexual assaults in the military. In May, Hagel ordered the military to recertify all 25,000 people involved in programs designed to prevent and respond to sexual assault and to review the qualifications of some 19,000 recruiters.

The Army reviewed qualifications and records of 20,000 soldiers in sensitive jobs such as sexual assault counselors and recruiters and found 588 unsuitable for their positions.

The Navy and the Air Force also removed certain personnel, while the Marines' review found no one to disqualify.

Of the 588 soldiers, 79 were leaving the Army, though it was unclear if their departures were voluntary.

Of 11,000 Navy personnel reviewed, five were found to be unqualified. The Air Force review of 2,500 sexual assault victim advocates and assault response coordinators, two advocates were removed due to background problems.

Pentagon officials said one likely reason the Army had so many more personnel removed was that the Army did a more stringent review, going beyond what Hagel had ordered. It scrutinized not only its recruiting and sex assault response and prevention staffs, but also people in other jobs it calls "positions of trust," such as the drill sergeants and other training instructors. It also scoured their records for a broader range of potentially problematic behaviors, officials said.

The issue of sexual assaults has gripped the military in the last year after a series of high-profile cases from its academy students to generals. Outrage among lawmakers has produced new ideas for tightening the way sexual-assault cases are handled in the military justice system.

Meanwhile, the department reported at a congressional hearing Wednesday that preliminary figures show the number of reported sexual assaults across the military shot up by some 60 percent this year - to 5,400, or three times that of 2004. Defense officials have said the rise suggests victims are becoming more willing to come forward after a tumultuous year of scandals that shined a spotlight on the crimes and put pressure on the military to take a number of aggressive steps.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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