The number of U.S. soldiers forced to leave the army for crimes and misconduct has risen sharply in recent years, according to an Associated Press report released on Saturday.
According to data obtained by the AP, the number of soldiers who left the Army because of drugs, alcohol, crimes and other misconduct rose from 5,600 in 2007 to more than 11,000 last year.
Additionally, the number of officers forced out for crimes and misconduct has tripled in the last three years.
This increase parallels the army’s growth during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as reduced standards in order to recruit and maintain troops.
“I wouldn’t say lack of character was tolerated in (war) theater, but the fact of the last 10 or 12 years of repeated deployments, of the high op-tempo — we might have lost focus on this issue,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s top officer, told the AP.
“Sometimes in the past we’ve overlooked character issues because of competence and commitment.”
The Pentagon reports that an estimated 12,100 servicewomen and 13,900 servicemen were sexually assaulted in 2012, a 45 percent increase from the estimated 8,300 incidents reported by women in 2011, and a 30 percent increase from the 10,700 incidents reported by men.
“We are not tolerant at all of those showing a lack of character,” Odierno said. “We have to refocus ourselves so we get to where we think is the right place.”