A general who oversees US Army troops in Japan has been suspended for allegedly failing to report or investigate an account of a possible sexual assault, officials said Friday.
The unusual move underscored heightened concern over sexual assault in the ranks amid a rise in reported incidents and a spate of high-profile scandals.
Major General Michael Harrison was suspended by Army Secretary John McHugh and Army chief General Ray Odierno on allegations he “failed in his duties as a commander to report or properly investigate an allegation of sexual assault,” the Army said in a statement.
Until the investigation of the two-star general is complete, Major General James Boozer will serve as commander in Japan, officials said.
Boozer had been scheduled to take over from Harrison before the suspension was announced, and Harrison had been due to take a post at US Central Command, which oversees forces in the Middle East.
The military faces intense scrutiny over an epidemic of sexual assaults and criticism from lawmakers who say commanders must be disciplined if they fail to confront the problem in their units.
At a rare joint appearance before Congress earlier this week, the chiefs of all the US armed forces acknowledged that senior officers have rarely been reprimanded over how they have handled sexual assault allegations in their units.
Separately, the US Air Force said Friday a female two-star general will be named to run its sexual assault prevention office.
Major General Margaret Woodward will replace a lieutenant colonel, Jeffrey Krusinski, who was arrested in May for allegedly groping a woman in a parking lot near the Pentagon. He faces charges of sexual battery.
The Air Force officer’s arrest sparked outrage in Congress and was seized on as an illustration of the military’s failure to come to grips with the problem.