Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women's Action Network, said there is more focus on this issue now than ever in the past, but that there really is no sufficient deterrent in place. She said a major problem is that military commanders are responsible for deciding what cases should move forward.
She said military lawyers, who are trained and have a greater appearance of impartiality, should make such an important legal decision.
The statistics gathered and analyzed by the AP represent a very conservative estimate of the problem. While the Army, Navy and Marine Corps provided details for all military commanders who were lieutenant colonels or commanders and above for 2005 until now, Air Force officials said they could only provide data for colonels and above from 2008 until today.
Also, the figures reflect only officers who were in command positions. The numbers don't include what could be hundreds of officers fired from other jobs, such as administrative or other military posts. Military officials said they only collect data on officers in command who are fired.
The reasons for the firings are also murky. In some cases, no reason was listed; in other cases, it was vague — such as "ethics" or "leadership" or for fostering a bad command climate.
There also are varying degrees of publicity when such action is taken.
In Sinclair's case, the charges and impending court martial have received extensive coverage. The five pages of allegations, which involve his conduct with five women who were not his wife, include one count of forcible sodomy, two counts of wrongful sexual conduct, six counts of inappropriate sexual relationships, and eight counts of violating regulations. He could receive life in prison if convicted.
But in many other cases, particularly of those below the rank of general, there is little public notice if the senior officer is in the Army or Air Force. The Navy, however, issues a public statement every time a commander is removed from a job.
The figures also highlight the Navy's reputation for being quick to justice. Although it is the second smallest of the four military services, the Navy has relieved the most commanders, 99, over the past eight years. By comparison, it was 83 for the Army, 41 for the Marines and 32 for the Air Force.
Dismissing a commander from a job does not mean that officer is forced out of the military. In some of the more serious cases, officers may be discharged or forced to resign. But in many other cases, service members may go on to another job for some time.
Still, a dismissal often signals the end of an officer's career, and with no chance for promotion, officers will often retire or leave the service.
The Army is the largest of the military services, reaching a peak of about 570,000 active duty soldiers at the height of the Iraq war. It is supposed to cut 80,000 troops by 2017. The Marine Corps is the smallest service, with about 202,000 at its peak during the wars and is set to slim down to about 182,000. The Navy has about 322,000 active duty forces and the Air Force has about 328,000.
The other reasons for dismissals by the services cover a broad range of offenses, from assault and drug and alcohol use to being a poor or abusive leader. There are also instances of fraud as well as a few cases where Navy officers commanding a ship have hit something, such as a buoy or another ship.
Four generals have lost their jobs in recent years as a result of public scandals. All were dismissed while Robert Gates was defense secretary:
—Gen. Michael Moseley, the Air Force Chief of Staff, was dismissed in 2008 for failing to address several nuclear-related mishaps by the service.
— Army Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley and Army Maj. Gen. George Weightman were dismissed because of the poor outpatient treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2007.