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Hagel orders military to recertify sexual assault responders

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday 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 19,000 recruiters and must be completed by July 1, is among many that will be taken to fix the problem of sexual abuse and harassment in 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 was summoned to the White House to discuss the sexual assault problem with President Barack Obama.

Hagel said Friday 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.

Earlier Friday, the Air Force's top general said that sexual assaults in his branch of the military typically involve alcohol use and can be traced to a lack of respect for women. Mark Welsh said combatting the problem, which he characterized as a crisis, is his No. 1 priority-- AP

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