After years of repeated reports of sexual assaults -- and years of promises to prevent them, and then years of studies and commissions to find the best way of doing so -- a Defense Department study released Tuesday estimates that some 26,000 people in the military were sexually assaulted in the last fiscal year, up from about 19,000 the year before.
Moreover, it turns out the Air Force lieutenant colonel in charge of preventing sexual assault has been arrested for ... sexual assault. According to the police report, a drunken Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski allegedly approached a woman in a parking lot in Arlington, Va., Sunday night, and grabbed her breasts and buttocks.
Why has it been so difficult for the Air Force or the Defense Department to remedy this problem?
Speaking of which, the Air Force has just removed from duty seventeen launch officers at the Minot nuclear missile base in North Dakota -- one of three bases responsible for controlling, and, if necessary, launching, strategic nuclear missiles -- for violating weapons safety rules. The base commander characterized their negligence as "rot."
One officer was found to have intentionally broken a safety rule that could have compromised the secret codes enabling missiles to be launched.
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley points to the removal of the seventeen as evidence that the Air Force has strengthened its oversight of the nuclear force. And he explains that members of the launch crew are usually relatively junior officers with limited service experience.
Further steps will be taken to prevent one of our missiles from accidentally causing a nuclear holocaust. But I hope the Air Force does a better job remedying this problem than it's done preventing sexual assaults.
ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage," now available in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.