The Washington Post

Army suspends general for handling of sexual-assault case

In this image provided by the Army, Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison Sr., left, commander of U.S. Army Japan and I Corps (Forward), stands aboard a craft near Tengan Pier in Okinawa, Japan, during a tour of some of the 505th Quartermaster Battalion’s facilities on Chibana Compound. (CHIP STEITZ/AP)

The Army announced Friday night that it has suspended a two-star general in Japan for failing to properly investigate a sexual-assault case, the latest U.S. military commander to get in trouble over the issue.

Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison, the commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan, was suspended Friday by Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, in response to allegations that he “failed in his duties as a commander to report or properly investigate” a reported sexual assault, the Army said in a statement.

The Army did not disclose when the assault occurred or how it came to the Army leadership’s attention. George Wright, an Army spokesman, said Harrison’s personal conduct was not under suspicion but that he would remain suspended while Army officials investigate his handling of the case.

Maj. Gen. James C. Boozer, the former deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe, will serve as the interim commander in Japan until the investigation is completed, according to the Army.

Congress and President Obama have been pressing the Pentagon to crack down on sex crimes in response to a reported surge in sexual assaults and related crimes. Some lawmakers and advocacy groups have accused military officials of fostering a climate and culture that is tolerant of sexual abuse and discourages victims from reporting it.

There are signs, however, that the Pentagon is getting the message. On May 21, Army Brig. Gen. Bryan T. Roberts, the top commander at Fort Jackson, S.C., was suspended for allegedly having a physical altercation with a mistress.

Another one-star Army general, Jeffrey Sinclair, the former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, is scheduled to face a court-martial in July on charges that he sexually assaulted a female captain. And in March, Army Maj. Gen. Ralph O. Baker, who led a counterterrorism force in Africa, was fired for allegedly groping a woman while he was under the influence of alcohol.

Congress is also acting on its own to hold commanders accountable.

On Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) announced that she would indefinitely block the promotion of a three-star Air Force general for granting clemency to a convicted sex offender, effectively ending the commander’s military career.

Craig Whitlock covers the Pentagon and national security. He has reported for The Washington Post since 1998.

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