TOKYO — The U.S. Navy is reviewing its overseas screening process for new personnel assigned to Japan while commanders across the services will share ideas on how to combat sexual assault, the senior U.S. military representative here said Friday.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Edward Rice, U.S. Forces Japan commander, disclosed findings of the special task force created three months ago following a series of high-profile rape cases involving American troops in Japan and Okinawa. The group was put together to review sexual assault prevention programs at U.S. bases.

He also said the task force found that all USFJ installations are in compliance with Defense Department and service-directed policies.

"We have already spent over 1 million man hours addressing this issue, and we will spend more in the future," Rice said. "Our focus on this did not begin with the task force, and it will not end as long as we have U.S. forces stationed in this country.

"When we take days down to invest in this training, it’s significant. ... We’re making a significant investment to prevent even one crime from happening."

Rice said all the services have a screening process that includes thorough performance and medical reviews of candidates for overseas assignments.

"Those who don’t get through it, don’t wind up coming here," he added. "The Navy wants to go back and make sure its screening process is as strong as it should be."

Rice said the U.S. military will rely on local commanders to devise training programs based on sexual-assault prevention guidance already in place.

"We’re providing the type of training and cultural awareness to give us every opportunity to be successful here. That will continue," he said. "It’s a process of sharing best practices. Good order and discipline starts at the local level."

Most U.S. bases have incorporated sexual-assault awareness sessions into newcomer orientations, he added.

Rice said some installations also are working with off-base establishments to follow "responsible" alcohol serving policies.

"This is a very important initiative since we know there is a strong link between alcohol and inappropriate behavior," he said.

The two countries also have agreed that the U.S. military will inform the Japanese government of any military deserters and ask local police to arrest them. A USS Cowpens sailor had been absent without leave for several weeks before he allegedly killed a taxi driver in March in the city of Yokosuka.

With 50,000 troops based in Japan and Okinawa, Rice said the overwhelming majority abide by laws and uphold the U.S. military’s high standards.

Crime by U.S. servicemembers is "significantly lower than a general population group of 50,000 people anywhere in the world," he added.

"That said, it’s not good enough for us," Rice said.

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