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The sexual assault scandal at the Air Force basic training site at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, is likely to result in long-term changes at boot camps and entry-level training commands across the military, a Pentagon official said Thursday.
"We … have every intent to ensure that the lessons learned that emerge from Lackland are communicated and propagated across the rest of the services." said Maj. Gen. Gary Patton, director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
The ongoing investigation at the Air Force's training command in San Antonio — which has identified 43 victims and led to criminal charges against six trainers — was among the main reasons Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday ordered a "comprehensive assessment" of military training programs, Patton said in an meeting with reporters Thursday.
Panetta ordered the individual services to examine their training commands to identify ways to reduce the frequency of sexual assault and report back to him on the status of the review by Feb. 8, 2013.
"This assessment will look across the services into several key areas including the selection, training, and oversight of basic training instructors and leaders who directly supervise initial military training for officers and enlisted personnel," the Pentagon announced in a statement Tuesday.
"The study will also look at the instructor-to-student ratio, the ratio of leaders in the chain of command to instructors, and consider the potential benefits of increasing the number of female instructors," the statement said.
Patton said he expects the services to identify changes to areas including the reporting options available to newly enlisted trainees, how those complaints are handled, how victims are treated and the disciplinary measures applied to perpetrators.
"The expect is that there will be substantive findings and recommendations based on their comprehensive assessments as they look at their own service culture and unique training institutions," Patton said Thursday
This is the latest move by Panetta to crack down on sexual assaults in the military, which he estimates to number about 19,000 each year. Earlier this year, Panetta changed rules for handling sexual assault complaints by requiring an O-6-level commander to review each case to determine whether it should be dismissed or investigated further.
At a higher level, Panetta also ordered the services to expand the training provided to officers preparing to assume command of a unit and their senior enlisted leaders. That training should include "interactive instruction with vignettes, exercises, and classroom discussion," the Pentagon's report said.
The secretary said the services should develop those new training efforts by the end of the year and begin implementing them by March 30, 2013.