Pentagon report shows big jump in sex crimes in US military

Sex crimesA second lieutenant bows his head at his Air Force Academy's Class of 2012 graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Reuters)

The Obama administration expressed outrage about a recent high-profile Air Force groping scandal on Tuesday as the Pentagon released a study estimating that the number of sex crimes involving military personnel soared 37 percent last year.

The annual Pentagon report, which estimated there were 26,000 sex crimes ranging rape to abusive sexual contact in 2012, came a day after the Air Force removed the officer in charge of its anti-sexual assault office for allegedly groping a civilian in a suburban parking lot near the Pentagon.

Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, was removed from his job as head of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office after he was charged with sexual battery for allegedly grabbing a civilian woman by the breasts and buttocks.

The incident provoked an outcry from senior Pentagon officials, lawmakers, and President Barack Obama, who told reporters he had "no tolerance for this."

"We find out somebody's engaging in this stuff, they've got to be held accountable. Prosecuted. Stripped out of their positions. Court martialed. Fired. Dishonorably discharged. Period. It's not acceptable," Obama told reporters.

He said he had spoken to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and told him "we're going to have to not just step up our game - we have to exponentially step up our game to go at this thing hard."

Releasing the Pentagon's annual report on sexual assault in the military, Hagel said the Defense Department was "outraged and disgusted over these very troubling allegations." He warned that the problem of sexual assault had reached a point that it could jeopardize the military's ability to attract and retain personnel.

"Sexual assault is a despicable crime and one of the most serious challenges facing this department," he said. "It's a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people and the health, reputation and trust of this institution.

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