The sexual misconduct complaints piled up on the desk of Maj. Gen. Michael Harrison, the commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan. A colonel on his staff had been accused of having an affair with a subordinate, of drunken and inappropriate behavior with other women at a military club and, lastly, of sexual assault.
But Harrison let most of the complaints slide or reacted with leniency, according to the Army. He had known the colonel for two decades and said he didn't believe some of the allegations. In March 2013, when a Japanese woman accused the colonel of sexually assaulting her, Harrison waited months to report it to criminal investigators — a clear violation of Army rules, according to an internal investigation.
As chronicled by that investigation, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post, the general's handling of the case provides a textbook example of the Pentagon's persistent struggle to get commanders to take reports of sexual misconduct seriously.
Stung by troop surveys that show most sex-crime victims don't trust the military to protect them, the Defense Department has repeatedly pledged to fix the problem and punish commanders who don't get the message.
"Everyone in positions of leadership are accountable," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday during a visit to a military call center for victims of rape, abuse and incest. "It doesn't make any difference if you're at the top of the military structure."
The military, however, has been slow to impose discipline on offending senior leaders.
The Army suspended Harrison in last June for mishandling the case involving the Japanese woman, but only after she took her frustrations outside the chain of command. She complained to the Army inspector general as well as to Stars & Stripes, a newspaper that covers the military.
After conducting an investigation, the Army inspector general rebuked Harrison in August for protecting the colonel and failing to take appropriate action. But the Army kept the results under wraps until this week, when it released a heavily redacted copy of the investigative report in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the Post.
Despite the suspension and rebuke, the Army brought Harrison back to the Pentagon to take another top position. His lawyer now says he intends to retire.
The colonel was subjected to administrative discipline, an Army spokesman said.