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Pentagon suspended 60 personnel for criminal records after sexual assault review

Shawn Thew / EPA file

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pictured at right with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2012, told Congress in June that the U.S. military has 'inadequate protections' for screening out enlistees with criminal records.

Military officials confirmed Friday that 60 service members have been dismissed or suspended this year as recruiters, drill instructors or sexual assault counselors because a review of their records found previous violations for offenses from public drunkenness to sexual assault.

"The purpose of this review was to remove anyone with any blot on their service record, no matter how minor, to ensure the trust that comes with these positions," a military official told NBC News.

That trust has been called into question by a reported 35 percent rise in sexual assaults within the military from 2010 to 2012.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress in June that "there are currently, in my judgment, inadequate protections for precluding" people with histories of sexual misconduct from enlisting in the military.

The review, which was first reported Friday by USA Today, was ordered in May by Defense Decretary Chuck Hagel in May as part of a Pentagon push to address sexual assault in the military. It took a second look at the records of about 35,000 recruiters, drill sergeants and sexual assault recruiters, the newspaper said, citing military sources.

So far, 60 have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs, military officials told NBC News — 55 in the Army and five in the Navy. The Air Force and the Marines reported that none of their personnel were disciplined, according to USA Today.

Neither the Army nor the Navy broke down what specific offenses that led to the disciplinary actions against their personnel, who would represent 0.17 percent of those whose records are under review. The U.S. military reported a total active-duty roster of slightly more than 1.4 million in its 2010 census.

Pentagon officials said the offenses covered in the review included not only sexual assault but also public drunkenness — the most common violation among young service members.

Courtney Kube of NBC News contributed to this report.

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