TODAY   |  May 25, 2013

Obama: Assaults threaten strength of military

“Those who commit sexual assaults are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong,” said President Barack Obama to a graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy. Obama’s remarks come on the heels of a study that found a 37 percent increase in unreported cases of sex assaults in 2012. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> this memorial day weekend president obama is paying tribute to men and women who have given their life in service but showing a spotlight on the growing problem of sexual assault and abuse in the armed services . kristen welker is at the white house with more on that. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning to you. defense secretary chuck hagel is shining a light on that problem as well. we'll all for an end to sexual assault when he addresses graduates at west point later on today. it comes as we're learning about a new investigation. according to military official, the army is looking into allegations of possible sexual misconduct at the space and missile command in ft. greely, alaska. so far no charges have been filed but it underscores how pervasive this issue and an issue that president obama addressed on friday. against a rainy sky, president obama used friday's graduation speech at the u.s. naval academy to call for higher standards in the military and urged future military leaders, more than 1,000 graduates, to end sexual assault in the armed forces .

>> those who commit sexual assault are not only critti icommitting a cry, they threaten the trust that makes our military strong. we have to be determined to stop these crimes.

>> reporter: the stern words came three weeks after a report by the defense department revealed unreported sexual assaults in the military rose 37% in 2012 to an estimated 26,000 cases. the military has also faced a recent slate of sex assault scandals there was a vow from defense secretary chuck hagel to crackdown. mr. obama said the military culture also needs to change and cited a lack of trust in government institutions. a not so subtle reference to the recent controversies at the irs, justice and state departments that have embroiled washington and his administration.

>> as we've seen in recent days, it only takes the misconduct of a few to further erode the people's trust in their government.

>> reporter: veterans advocates say the message comes from the top but fundamental change has to come from this next generation of officers.

>> starting with the president and going down through the officer corps is what's needed. this should be unacceptable in society. it should be unthinkable in a structure like the military.

>> reporter: in his weekly address, president obama is putting the focus on past military personnel reminding everyone this memorial day weekend is a time to honor those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice. lester?