Obama: Military ‘ashamed’ of sexual assaults

 US President Barack Obama (C) delivers remarks to members of the news media during a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L), US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey (R), the service secretaries, service chiefs, and senior enlisted advisors to discuss sexual assault in the military in the Cabinet Room, of the White House in Washington DC, USA, 16 May 2013. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS President Obama after meeting with military leaders. (EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS)

President Obama met with Pentagon leaders Thursday, saying afterward that  the military is “ashamed” of a rash of recent sex-crime scandals and that he has instructed the officials to examine ways to prevent sexual assaults.

After the meeting in the Cabinet Room, Obama told reporters that sexual assault in the military “is dangerous to our national security” and is “not a sideshow.”

Lawmakers from both parties said Wednesday that they were appalled by the latest revelation: that the Army is investigating a sexual-assault prevention officer on suspicion of sex abuse and pimping. Several members pledged to overhaul the way the military punishes offenders and protects victims of sexual assault.

Obama said he had asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey to head the process, which will include studying how other militaries handle the issue. Hagel will hold weekly meetings, the president said.

“There’s no silver bullet to solving this problem,” Obama said. “This is going to require a sustained effort over a long period of time.”

He added that the U.S. military is superior not just because of fancy weapons systems but “because of our people.”

“It comes down to do people trust each other and do they understand that they’re all part of a single system that has to operate under whatever circumstances effectively?” Obama said. “The issue of sexual assault in our armed forces undermines that trust.”

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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Aaron Blake · May 16, 2013