WASHINGTON —The Army might be able to put off questions from a reporter seeking details about the 588 soldiers it removed from sensitive posts after the military's sexual assault scandal prompted a re-screening, but a prominent senator and persistent critic of the military's response to sexual assault is now demanding the same data.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who chairs the Armed Services Committee's personnel panel, wrote to Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, the Army's top officer for personnel late Tuesday demanding information on the 588 soldiers whose status was first reported by USA TODAY.
"I am concerned that there has not been more public information about who these people are, the nature and degree of the disqualifying offenses, and the current status of these individuals," the New York Democrat wrote.
Bromberg had testified before Gillibrand's committee last week but offered little specific information about the cases. He noted that there were 10 categories of offenses that could have cost soldiers their jobs as recruiters, instructors or sexual assault counselors. The vast majority have been reassigned, some to their old infantry or artillery units. Bromberg didn't mention, as USA TODAY has reported, that the Army is seeking to kick 79 of those soldiers out the military for good.
The Army has denied the paper's requests for details of the offenses that disqualified the soldiers, requiring it to file a federal Freedom of Information Act request. Gillibrand, whose legislation very nearly wrested commanders' authority to prosecute sex crimes, won't be so easily put off.
Her questions are polite but targeted. "Could you please provide me with the disqualifying offenses and tell me how many soldiers were disqualified under each category of offense and from what position?"
In a way, the Army is a victim of its own diligence. Unlike the other services, it screened more personnel and scrubbed them harder. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked the other services to consider the Army's approach and determine if it suits them.
After initially disqualifying five sailors, the Navy reconsidered and reassigned 151 personnel. The Air Force found two unfit for sensitive duty. The Marines cleared everybody they had screened.
Gillibrand commended the Army for its thoroughness. Now she wants answers.
"In light of this large number of people who were serving in these sensitive positions, trust can only be restored through the transparency our servicemembers, recruits and their families deserve," she wrote.