Hagel also told military leaders to develop a method to assess commanders and hold them accountable on their ability to create a climate "of dignity and respect." He has given commanders until July 1 to visually inspect workspaces to make sure they are free of degrading materials, and military leaders have until Nov. 1 to recommend ways to assess officers and hold them accountable for their command climates.
"Sexual assault is a crime that is incompatible with military service and has no place in this department," Hagel said in a new response plan. "It is an affront to the American values we defend, and it is a stain on our honor. DoD needs to be a national leader in combating sexual assault and we will establish an environment of dignity and respect, where sexual assault is not tolerated, condoned or ignored."
Across Capitol Hill, lawmakers demanded the Pentagon take more aggressive steps to address the growing problem and they announced renewed efforts to pass legislation to battle the problem.
This week's sexual battery arrest of Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who headed the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit, provided a rallying point for lawmakers, who held it up Tuesday as an example of the Pentagon's failure to make progress despite the increased effort.
Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., introduced legislation Tuesday to provide any victim with a special military lawyer who would assist them throughout the process, prohibit sexual contact between instructors and trainees during and within 30 days of completion of basic training or its equivalent, and ensure that sexual assault response coordinators are available to help members of the National Guard and Reserve.
"Not only are we subjecting our men and women to this disgusting epidemic, but we're also failing to provide the victims with any meaningful support system once they have fallen victim to these attacks," Murray said.
The report says that of the 1.4 million active duty personnel, 6.1 percent of active duty women — or 12,100 — say they experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, a sharp increase over the 8,600 who said that in 2010. For men, the number increased from 10,700 to 13,900. A majority of the offenders were military members or Defense Department civilians or contractors, the report said.
Within the specific services, the Army showed a 16 percent decrease in the number of reported sexual assault cases, from 1,695 in 2011 to 1,423 in 2012.
The Navy said it saw a 32 percent increase, jumping from 550 in 2011 to 726 in 2012. The report said the Marines had more than a 30 percent increase in reported sexual assaults, from 333 in 2011 to 435 in 2012. And the Air Force had a 33 percent increase in reports, from 594 in 2011 to 790 in 2012.
Associated Press writer Richard Lardner contributed to this report.
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