Secretary of the Army John McHugh has issued an order to round up all convicted sex offenders in the service 'as soon as possible' and initiate proceedings for their discharge from the Army. (Pfc. Casey A. Collier / DoD)
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The secretary of the Army has issued an order to round up all convicted sex offenders in the service “as soon as possible” and initiate proceedings for their discharge from the Army.
The move is part of the Army’s campaign against sex assault in the service. Soldiers convicted of a sex offense, which in the military includes rape and sexual assault, who are deployed will be returned to the states, said Troy Rolan, an Army spokesman.
The Army is working on guidance to implement the Nov. 7 directive issued by Army Secretary John McHugh, Rolan said.
“Purging convicted sex offenders from the ranks is just one of the steps Secretary McHugh is taking to combat sexual harassment and assault in the Army,” said Maj. Christopher Kasker, a spokesman for McHugh, in an emailed statement. Kasker noted that McHugh also recently ordered that officers and noncommissioned officers be assessed in their professional evaluations for their efforts to create a climate free of sexual assault and harassment.
“The message is simple: Sexual assault is a crime, and it will not be tolerated,” Kasker said.
The directive comes ahead of Senate debate this week on the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, to which a group of senators, spearheaded by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., plan to propose an amendment that removes the military chain of command from the decision to prosecute certain crimes, including sex assault. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has opposed the measure, called the Military Justice Improvement Act.
How much of a difference the discharge of sex offenders will make in preventing sex assaults is unclear. Of the 3,374 reported sex assaults in the military in fiscal year 2012, only about 17 percent resulted in court-martial proceedings, according to DoD data. Only 238 of the reports resulted in a conviction.
Separation proceedings for the soldiers will be started regardless of the date of their conviction for the sex offense, according to the directive.
For enlisted soldiers, separation proceedings will start even if after their conviction they were evaluated for retention and allowed to stay. Commissioned and warrant officers will not face separation proceedings if they were already evaluated for retention after their conviction and retained, according to the memo.
The Army is also banning convicted sex offenders from temporary duty, temporary change of station or permanent change of station anywhere outside the continental United States, according to the memo. And if they are overseas, except in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or other territories of the U.S., they must return stateside from their TDY, PCS or TCS.
For the convicted sex offenders returning stateside, their new commander will be the one to start the discharge proceedings, the directive states.
“This directive establishes new policy to ensure that the decision to retain any soldier convicted of a sex offense is fully informed and in the Army’s best interest,” the memo states.
The Pentagon has acknowledged sexual assaults are severely under-reported, finding that in 2011 there were an estimated 26,000 sex assaults, most of which went unreported. In fiscal 2011, the military had 3,192 reports of sexual assault.
The latest figures from the Pentagon show 3,553 reports of sex assault in the third quarter of fiscal year 2013, a 46 percent increase compared to the same time period last year.