On Capitol Hill, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., planned to introduce legislation Thursday taking top commanders out of the process of deciding whether a sexual misconduct case goes to trial. For sexual offenses with authorized sentences of more than one year in confinement — akin to felonies in the civilian judicial system — that decision would rest instead with officers at ranks as low as colonel who are seasoned trial counsels with prosecutorial experience.
And, Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced legislation Wednesday to require the Pentagon to establish strict new criteria for service members who can serve in sexual assault prevention programs throughout the military.
In the latest case, the Texas sergeant, whose name has not been made public, was assigned as a coordinator of a battalion-level sexual assault prevention program at Fort Hood. He has been suspended from all duties but has not been charged with any crime.
A defense official in Washington said it was not yet clear if one of the three women was forced into prostitution, adding that the sergeant is being investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting one of the other two women. The allegations involving the third woman were not known.
Another U.S. official said that the sergeant had service in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and that there were no obvious problems with his military record on an initial review.
Both officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The soldier was being investigated by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. No charges had been filed, but officials say they expect them fairly soon.
Just last week an Air Force officer who headed a sexual assault prevention office was himself arrested on charges of groping a woman in a Northern Virginia parking lot.
Little said Hagel was angry and disappointed at "these troubling allegations and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply." He said Hagel had met with Army Secretary John McHugh and ordered him to "fully investigate this matter rapidly, to discover the extent of these allegations and to ensure that all of those who might be involved are dealt with appropriately."
In the recent Pentagon report, officials said that of the estimated 26,000 military members who may have been sexually assaulted last year, fewer than 3,400 reported the incidents. Nearly 800 of those simply sought help and declined to file formal complaints against their alleged attackers.
Associated Press writer Donna Cassata and AP Radio correspondent Sagar Meghani contributed to this report.
Follow Robert Burns on Twitter: https://twitter.com/robertburnsAP
Follow Lolita C. Baldor on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lbaldor
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.