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Senate panel holds hearing on military sexual harassment

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February 4, 1997
Web posted at: 11:43 a.m. EST (1643 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top Army officials were testifying Tuesday before a Senate panel investigating allegations of sexual harassment in the military, just a day after the Army's highest ranking non-commissioned officer was accused of sexual misconduct.

Army officials and the civilian chiefs of all branches of the armed forces were to report to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the progress made in investigating and punishing those responsible for sexual harassment.


On Monday, Army Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney stepped down from his duties on the Secretary of the Army's Senior Review Panel on Sexual Harassment, which is investigating that issue.

McKinney is accused by Brenda L. Hoster, a retired female sergeant major, of improper sexual advances and touching, according to The New York Times.

Army spokesman Col. John Smith said in a statement that McKinney "denies he ever engaged in any form of sexual misconduct or improper treatment with the retired sergeant major who has made the allegations."

Army officials said they learned of the accusations when contacted for comment by the Times.


"The Army understands that a retired sergeant major made a complaint against the current Sergeant Major of the Army for sexual assault and harassment," the Army said in a statement.

"The Army will follow normal investigative procedures to pursue all leads in a thorough but timely manner, following the rules designed to protect the victim and the accused," it said.

McKinney, 46, is married and a highly-decorated soldier who has served in every enlisted leadership position in the Army. He served a combat infantry tour in Vietnam.

There is only one Sergeant Major of the Army, the rank given to the senior enlisted soldier. There are many sergeants major.

Investigation began last year

The accusations against McKinney come nearly three months after the Army sexual harassment scandal erupted.

Last November, the Army announced it was responding to complaints from young female soldiers that they had been sexually assaulted or harassed by their instructors.

The Army is continuing to bring new charges against drill instructors and other senior soldiers accused of sexually harassing or assaulting females under their control. That results from more than 200 ongoing criminal investigations prompted by more than 1,000 complaints to an Army hot line.


At the Army's Ordnance School in Aberdeen, Maryland, where the scandal broke, five soldiers face trials, one received a discharge and 20 have been suspended until investigators clear or charge them.

Now it's not just Aberdeen, but all the Army's training bases that are now under scrutiny.

"The investigation, if anything, is probably even more vigorous than we thought it would be," said Sara Lister, Assistant Secretary of the Army.

That's what Army Secretary Togo West will tell members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He's still waiting for the results of two broader investigations to determine how widespread the rape and sexual assault problem is, and make recommendations to correct it.

Military trials get under way next month for soldiers accused of sex crimes, an army inspector general's report is due out in the spring, and a special task force will make its recommendations in June. Meanwhile, the Army says every complaint is being thoroughly and fairly investigated.

Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.  

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