WASHINGTON — One after another, the charges have tumbled out — allegations of sexual assaults in the military that have triggered outrage, from local commanders to Capitol Hill and the Oval Office.
But for a Pentagon under fire, there seem to be few clear solutions beyond improved training and possible adjustments in how the military prosecutes such crimes. Changing the culture of a male-dominated, change-resistant military that for years has tolerated sexism and sexist behavior is proving to be a challenging task.
"We're losing the confidence of the women who serve that we can solve this problem," the top U.S. military officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said in unusually strong terms Wednesday. "That's a crisis."
As new sexual assault allegations emerged this week involving an Army soldier who was assigned to prevent such crimes — the second military member involved in similar accusations — the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is working on a written directive to spell out steps aimed at resolving the escalating problem.
But President Barack Obama, fuming at a news conference last week, warned that he wanted swift and sure action, not "just more speeches or awareness programs or training." Sexual offenders need to be "prosecuted, stripped of their position, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period," he said.
He will meet with senior Pentagon officials today to discuss legislative responses to the crisis.