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Hagel believes alcohol is 'a very big factor' in many of military's sexual assault and harassment cases

AFP/Getty Images
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrives to greet French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Pentagon in Washington on May 17, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMMNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

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By The Associated Press
Friday, May 17, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday ordered the military to recertify all 25,000 people involved in programs designed to prevent and respond to sexual assault, an acknowledgement that assaults have escalated beyond the Pentagon's control.

He said this step, which also applies to the military's approximately 19,000 recruiters and must be completed by July 1, is one among many that will be taken to fix the problem of sexual abuse and sexual harassment within every branch of the military.

At a news conference with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hagel said he believes alcohol use is “a very big factor” in many sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, but there are many pieces to the problem.

He and Dempsey spoke one day after all of the military's leadership were summoned to the White House to discuss the sexual assault problem with President Obama, who has expressed impatience with the Pentagon's failure to solve it.

At his Pentagon news conference, Hagel said it has become clear to him since taking office in February that holding people accountable for their actions is important, but simply firing people is not a solution.

He said he gets a lot of advice on that.

He said some ask him, “Well, why don't you just fire some people?” He said his answer is, “Well, yeah, we could do that. And, you know, who are you going to fire?”

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