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Rumsfeld orders review of sexual assaults

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) --U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ordered a 90-day review into allegations of sexual assaults against female soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait.

In a memo signed Thursday, Rumsfeld noted concerns that some female soldiers have reported sexual misconduct but have been left in their units to serve with those accused of assaulting them.

The Pentagon is expected to appoint an ombudsman to oversee the investigation.

Rumsfeld's order goes beyond previous Pentagon statements saying that sexual misconduct would not be tolerated.

"I am concerned about recent reports regarding allegations of sexual assaults on service members deployed in Iraq and Kuwait," Rumsfeld said in the memo.

During 2003, the Army had 80 allegations of sexual misconduct among service members, the Air Force seven allegations, the Marine Corps one allegation and the Navy none, according to the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials said all of the cases have been investigated. While some have proven without foundation, others have led to disciplinary action.

Of the 80 Army reports, investigations into 43 have been concluded, and 33 of those have been determined to require further action, the Pentagon said.

Rumsfeld's memo was addressed to David Chiu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

"I am directing that you review how the department handles treatment and care for victims of sexual assault, with particular attention to any special issues that may arise from the circumstances of a combat theater," the memo said.

"We are responsible for ensuring that the victims of sexual assault are properly treated, their medical and psychological needs are properly met, our policies and programs are effective, and we are prompt in dealing with all issues involved."

In asking for findings and recommendations within 90 days, the defense chief also said the review should address the reporting of sexual assaults and the availability of private channels to report such issues within combat theaters.

Thirty-seven military women who served in Kuwait and Iraq told of assaults by military colleagues in reports to a private group, the Connecticut-based Miles Foundation.

The reports did not identify the women, and it was unclear how many of those cases were also reported to the military.

Some members of Congress said they were concerned about the problem and said they want a Pentagon investigation.

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