The Army is deciding how it will move forward with plans to boot sex offenders from its ranks, amid reports of increased instances of sexual assault.
Army Secretary John McHugh issued a Nov. 7 directive that called for the discharge of all soldiers convicted of a sexual offense.
“This directive establishes new policy to ensure that the decision to retain any soldier convicted of a sex offense is fully informed and in the Army’s best interest,” the directive stated.
According to the directive, separation proceedings for enlisted soldiers will begin even if they were evaluated for retention and allowed to stay after their convictions. Commissioned and warrant officers will not face separation proceedings if they were already evaluated and retained after their convictions.
The directive also contains language that prohibits convicted sex offenders from temporary duty, a temporary change of station or a permanent change of station anywhere outside the continental United States. Any offenders overseas must return to the U.S., where their new commanders will initiate discharge proceedings.
A spokesman for McHugh said the next step in the process will be implementation. No timeline on when the process will officially begin was given.
As of the end of November, Fort Hood had seven registered sex offenders. Three are soldiers and four are civilians. Fort Hood officials said they are working to comply with the directive.
“III Corps and Fort Hood’s personnel section is working with the Fort Hood’s Directorate of Emergency Services, III Corps Judge Advocate General’s Corps and the Department of the Army for additional guidance on identifying all soldiers convicted of sex offenses in order to fully comply with the directive,” according to a statement from Fort Hood sent in response to questions from the Herald.
Campaign against sex assault
The directive comes as part of what appears to be a campaign against sex assault in the military, after the topic gained a flurry of media attention over the past year. That attention was focused on Fort Hood in May when reports that a Fort Hood sexual assault prevention program coordinator was investigated for sexual assault, which led to national headlines.
Military defense attorney Daniel Conway said he was not surprised by the directive.
“There’s a lot of legitimate reasons for (the directive),” said Conway, a former Marine staff sergeant.
Conway said he noticed punishments handed down by military juries for sexual offenses got increasingly harsh. He also said rules and laws regarding sexual assaults changed “radically” over the last two years.
“They are results-oriented, so they want to produce more convictions,” Conway said. “I don’t think the (Defense Department) truly understands the nature of the problem.”
Cleansing the ranks of registered sex offenders may help the Army reach another goal, as well.
The Army is in the process of trimming its size from 560,000 soldiers to 490,000 over the next five years.