Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog will step down as head of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office by the end of the month, to be replaced by Army Maj. Gen. Gary Patton, the Defense Department announced Wednesday.
Patton, a 33-year veteran, is currently serving as the Pentagon’s principal director for military personnel policy. He presided over the military’s implementation of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, and earlier this year his office helped roll out the Pentagon’s recommendations for relaxing policies barring women from serving in combat units.
“I look forward to continuing the good work of Mary Kay Hertog and to further advancing the initiatives she set in motion,” he said in a Defense Department press release.
Hertog took over SAPRO last August from Dr. Kaye Whitley. During Hertog’s tenure, the office worked to standardize reporting methods across the services. Hertog also recently told Military Times that the office had begun studying the services’ individual training programs.
In recent months, Defense Department leaders have added new policies allowing non-uniformed adults, such as military family members and contractors, to access military support services if they have been victimized; began requiring the services to keep case documents longer; and started requiring certifications for victim advocates.
The Pentagon also has come under fire for its handling of sexual assault cases during Hertog’s tenure. A documentary on sexual assault in the military, scheduled for release June 22, paints the office’s education programs in an unflattering light and criticizes SAPRO’s lack of policy-making power.
Filming for the documentary, called “The Invisible War,” began while Whitley was in charge and creates the impression that she did not have a firm grasp on the problem, but it highlights Hertog’s statements that she intended to continue with Whitley’s policies. That documentary has been screened widely for politicians; filmmakers say Defense Secretary Leon Panetta saw it in April.
Publicity for the film coincided with multiple lawsuits levied against high-ranking Pentagon officials, charging that they failed to properly deal with sexual assault in the ranks, and a push by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and groups like the Service Women’s Action Network to have sexual assault cases sent to a special prosecution office instead of up the perpetrator’s chain of command.
When she leaves SAPRO, Hertog will retire from the military, closing the door on her 34-year military career.
“It is as clear to me today — as it was when I joined this office — the department has a strong commitment to fighting sexual assault, and I know that commitment will never waver,” Hertog said in the DoD release.
Patton “is the consummate professional and leader, and I know he will continue to work with the services and congressional members to prevent sexual assault in the military and to ensure victims of sexual assault receive the best care possible,” Hertog said.
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