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Military Official: Sexual Assaults ‘an Enemy That Must Be Defeated’

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter talks with PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Ray Suarez.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Tuesday that as the military is opening more roles to women, it is not waiting to combat the scourge of sexual assaults. “This is an enemy that must be defeated,” he told PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Ray Suarez.

More of their interview airs on Tuesday’s broadcast.

“Our attitude and culture in the Department of Defense is to look a problem in the face, understand it and be forthright about taking it on,” Carter continued. Therefore, the military is not waiting for Congress to act to address the problem, he said.

A proposal Congress is considering from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., would take all serious crimes including sexual assault investigations in the Armed Forces out of the control of the chain of command and instead have military prosecutors decide which cases to try.

Carter said in Tuesday’s interview that those who feel the problem the most are the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who “embody the ethos of the institution,” and sexual assaults are not part of that ethos, he said.

Carter also commented on the $37 billion in spending cuts that the Defense Department had to make by September under sequestration. To help reach its cost-cutting goals, the department in May ordered civilian employees to take 11 unpaid days of leave, but on Tuesday reduced the number of days to six.

“We should look at this as an opportunity” to shift from the era of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to new security demands, including counterterrorism, the growing importance in the Asia Pacific, and cyber threats, he said.

But having to make snap decisions under sequestration is not the best use of taxpayer money, he added.

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