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Editorial: Save the children

In response to disclosures of disturbing increases in child abuse inside military families, the Pentagon is establishing a working group charged with developing effective measures to reverse this unacceptable trend.

The group has its work cut out: A recent special report by Army Times revealed cases of child abuse and neglect soared by 40 percent from 2010 through 2012. In that time, Army officials investigated some 30,000 cases, including 118 in which children were killed.

The services have reported more than 25,000 child abuse and neglect cases since 2008.

Though available child-abuse statistics vary, the picture is grim inside the other services, too.

Air Force child abuse and neglect cases jumped 25 percent since 2008 through 2012, from 1,035 cases to 1,288 cases. Sixteen Air Force children died.

The Marine Corps reported 1,591 confirmed cases of child abuse in 2011 and 2012; six children were killed.

The Navy reported 3,336 cases from 2009 to 2012, with the number of cases declining in 2012, but climbing through the first half of 2013. Forty-two Navy children were killed as a result of abuse and neglect from 2008 and 2012.

The Army Times special report prompted Sens. John McCain and Joe Manchin to demand that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel provide more information about child abuse across the services and come up with a plan to deal with a problem that has festered for more than a decade.

Military children have suffered in the shadows during that period. Lawmakers and Pentagon leaders have a duty to keep the light of reform shining brightly until military children are truly safe in their own homes.

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