President Barack Obama says he is determined to stop sexual assault in the U.S. military. Obama addressed the problem Friday in a commencement speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
The president called on the graduating Midshipmen, soon to become Naval and Marine Corps officers, to show honor and moral courage in ending the plague of sexual assaults in the armed forces.
He said the wrongdoing of a few can damage the nation’s institutions, including the military.
"Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong. That is why we have to be determined to stop these crimes, because they have got no place in the greatest military on earth," Obama said.
A recent Pentagon report estimated that as many as 26,000 members of the U.S. military may have been sexually assaulted last year. It said thousands of them are not willing to report the crimes.
Obama met with top military leaders at the White House last week, and told them to take steps to end the problem.
Meanwhile, for the second time in two days, the president defended the use of unmanned drones to target alleged terrorists. He echoed the message he gave Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington, in a major speech on U.S. counterterrorism policy.
"Even as we move beyond deploying large ground armies abroad, we still need to conduct precise, targeted strikes against terrorists before they kill our citizens. And even as we stay vigilant in the face of terrorism and stay true to our Constitution and our values, we need to stay ready for the full range of threats," Obama said.
Obama’s address in Annapolis also included another call to Congress to end the automatic budget cuts that he said are threatening America’s readiness.
The president pledged to maintain the nation’s military superiority, despite budget cuts, and said he would provide troops with all the resources they need.