General suspended for alleged failures in reporting, investigating sex abuse

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(CNN) — A senior Army officer has been suspended for his alleged mishandling of suspected sexual abuse, an issue that has dogged the U.S. military.

The officer affected is Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison, until now the commander of U.S. forces in Japan.

“He was suspended due to allegations he failed to properly report and investigate allegations of sexual abuse,” Army spokesman George Wright told CNN on Friday.

Wright didn’t offer more details, beyond saying that there are no allegations that Harrison himself is guilty of personal misconduct.

In a press release, the U.S. Department of Defense said that the action was taken by Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno.

Maj. Gen. James C. Boozer, the former deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe, will step in to lead U.S. forces in Japan “until the investigation is complete and the issue resolved,” the Pentagon said.

The U.S. military has been hit hard over the issue of sexual assault in its ranks.

The Defense Department earlier this spring reported an estimated 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact — ranging from rape to groping — in 2012. That was a 35% jump from 2010, the Defense Department said.

The report prompted President Barack Obama, during May 24 commencement exercises at the Naval Academy, to tell graduates, “Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong.”

A number of specific cases have made headlines as well, prompting criticism from within and outside the military.

Among them:

— An Army sergeant first class assigned to the sexual assault prevention unit at Fort Hood, Texas, is being investigated for alleged sexual assault, pandering, abusive sexual contact and maltreatment of subordinates.

— In early May, an Air Force officer who worked with an assault prevention unit was charged with sexual battery after being accused of grabbing a woman and groping her buttocks and breasts in a parking lot not far from his Washington office.

— Three U.S. Naval Academy football players are under investigation in an alleged sex assault involving a female midshipman at an off-campus “football house” party in April 2012, according to a Defense Department official. The victim says she learned from friends and social media that the players claimed to have had sexual intercourse with her while she was intoxicated, her lawyer said.

Harrison joined the U.S. Army in 1980, and since then he has served in numerous capacities throughout that military branch and around the world.

That includes leadership roles with the 10th Mountain Division and the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. He rose to his post as commanding general of U.S. forces in Japan and of I Corps (Forward) in October 2010, according to his Army bio.