Military officials are ramping up their efforts to prevent sexual assault in the ranks. It has been a priority for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel since stepping arriving at the Pentagon, but scrutiny is growing after a series of high-profile sexual assault cases and recent accusations against the Air Force’s branch chief for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, is accused of sexual battery after allegedly groping a woman in a Crystal City, Va. parking lot. Air Force officials aren’t commenting because it is an ongoing law enforcement matter, but Krusinski has been removed from duty and there’s no doubt a revocation of his security clearance is on the table.
A recent Department of Defense poll showed a dramatic rise in ‘unwanted sexual conduct’ over the past two years. The actual number of sexual crimes reported increased by 6 percent in fiscal year 2012, according to the Pentagon. That means as service members’ time overseas winds down, inappropriate conduct is heating up.
Ongoing issues with sexual assault in the military don’t just have an impact on the reputation of the Armed Services, but on our national security, as well. Guideline D: Sexual Behavior is listed as a separate adjudicative guideline in security clearance determinations. But the clearance process is less concerned about sexual ‘behavior’ and more concerned about criminal conduct or possibility for coercion, noted security clearance expert and consultant William Henderson.
“An unsubstantiated allegation probably wouldn’t result in a clearance suspension and definitely wouldn’t result in a revocation,” said Henderson. “A substantiated allegation could result in a suspension.”
While an allegation is enough to get the ball rolling for a clearance revocation, Henderson noted that there doesn’t have to be a criminal conviction for an individual to lose his or her security clearance.
“This is because the standard of evidence for a security clearance determination (substantial evidence) is lower than the standard of evidence for a criminal conviction (beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty),” said Henderson. Just as a person may be acquitted in a criminal court case and then successfully sued for wrongful death in civil court.
With a substantiated accusation being enough to compel a clearance revocation – and the number of crimes reported increasing – sexual assault, while still a marginal reason for a security clearance revocation, may spell serious problems for some perpetrators. Procedural ‘due process’ continues to allow anyone accused to refute or mitigate an accusation, but as cleared professionals know, even a temporary suspension can have significant career implications.