As of March 1, Navy or Marine Corps members who violate certain anti-harassment rules will be kicked out of the service on a first offense.
That standard was announced Wednesday by the Navy, which has been rocked in recent years by highly publicized incidents of sexual harassment and abuse.
In November, an admiral was fired after he failed to act promptly on a complaint by a female aide that she was sexually harassed at a Las Vegas convention of naval aviators. In 1989, a female midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy was chained to a urinal and photographed by male midshipmen.
Jean Appleby Jackson, chairwoman of a Pentagon advisory group on women's issues, said in an interview: "I'm encouraged they're taking a new approach.
"It's the kind of problem that's hard to get at unless you take firm approaches to it." Jackson is head of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.
Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, chief of naval operations, who transmitted the policy in an all-hands message Tuesday, equated the problem of sexual harassment with the Navy's past internal battles against racial discrimination and drug abuse, saying it "demeans victims and tarnishes our reputation as fair, hardworking professionals."
Kelso said repeat violators of "less aggravated acts of sexual harassment" also could be dismissed.
He said he ordered that sexual harassment training be improved and made more available.
The new policy states that members of the Navy and Marine Corps will be fired outright for:
Threats or attempts to influence another's career or job to obtain sexual favors.
Offering rewards in exchange for sexual favors.
Physical contact of a sexual nature which, if charged as a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, could result in punitive discharge.
A service member would retain the legal right to contest his or her dismissal.
Until now, commanders had the option of dismissing the most serious violators of anti-harassment rules, but dismissal was not required, Lt. Mary Hanson, a Navy spokeswoman, said.