Pentagon sexual assault office gets new director

Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton Air Force

A champion of don’t ask, don’t tell repeal will become the next director of the Defense Department’s sexual assault prevention and response office, the Pentagon has announced.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog will retire in July after a 34-year career, according to the announcement Wednesday. She has directed the sexual assault office since August 2011.

The new director, Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, comes from the Office of Military Personnel and Policy, where he was principal director. He has been in active service for 32 years, including multiple tours in Iraq. In his current capacity, he serves as chief of staff for implementing repeal of military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy on sexual orientation.

Hertog’s retirement comes amid increased scrutiny on sexual assault in the military, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has led a campaign in the last several months to raise awareness of and create new initiatives to prevent and respond to sexual assault and harassment.

The Pentagon reported 3,191 cases of sexual assault in 2011, a slight increase from 2010. Due to the high number of unreported incidents, however, last year’s total is estimated at 19,000.

“Gen. Hertog has helped to bring about key systemic reforms within the military, but much more needs to be done going forward to address issues that still remain,” Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network -- an advocacy group for servicewomen and women veterans -- said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Gen. Patton to ensure that the military culture continues to change around this issue . . . so that service members regardless of rank are safe and supported when reporting assaults, seeking help and demanding justice.”

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