By Tom Vanden Brook
WASHINGTON - A sergeant in charge of sexual assault prevention at Ft. Hood is under investigation for sexual assault, the Pentagon announced Tuesday night.
The soldier, whose name has not been released, is being investigated for abusive sexual contact, pandering, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.
The soldier has been relieved of his duties and no charges have yet been filed, according to the Pentagon. He oversaw the program at the battalion level, a unit of about 800 soldiers.
The solider is being investigated for among other things forcing a subordinate into prostitution and sexually assaulting two others, according to a Capitol Hill staffer who has been briefed on the case and spoke about it on condition of anonymity.
Two senior Pentagon officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is under investigation, also confirmed that the sergeant is being investigated for running a prostitution ring.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reacted with "frustration, anger, and disappointment over these troubling allegations and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply," Pentagon press secretary George Little said.
The revelation is the latest in a string of sex-abuse scandals to rock the military.
Earlier this month, the officer in charge of the Air Force's sexual abuse prevention programs at the Pentagon was arrested not far from his office for drunkenly groping a woman, according to police. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski faces a trial in July for sexual battery. He has been removed his job, and his arrest drew condemnation from Hagel and President Obama.
Top Air Force officials have also been subject for criticism on how they have handled the sexual assault issues. Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh was blasted by senators, including Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, for blaming "hook-up culture" for contributing to the service's sexual abuse problems.
"To say this report is disturbing would be a gross understatement. For the second time in a week we are seeing someone who is supposed to be preventing sexual assault being investigated for committing that very act," said Gillibrand D-N.Y. who chairs the personnel panel for the armed services committee. "We have to do better by the men and women serving and assure them that they will not be attacked by their colleagues."
Also last week: the Pentagon estimated that sexual assaults surged 35% from 2010 to 2012, totaling 26,000.
"Tragically, the depth of the sexual assault problem in our military was already overwhelmingly clear before this latest highly disturbing report," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the armed services committee.
Contributing: Gregg Zoroya