President Obama Friday called on military leaders to launch a "full-scale review" of sexual assaults in the armed forces, telling officials he would press forward with reforms if not satisfied with their progress.
"Today, I instructed Secretary [Chuck] Hagel and Chairman [Martin] Dempsey to continue their efforts to make substantial improvements with respect to sexual assault prevention and response, including to the military justice system," Obama said.
"I have also directed that they report back to me, with a full-scale review of their progress, by Dec. 1, 2014," he added. "If I do not see the kind of progress I expect, then we will consider additional reforms that may be required to eliminate this crime from our military ranks and protect our brave service members who stand guard for us every day at home and around the world."
Obama's push comes just after lawmakers approved late Thursday a defense authorization bill. The president intends to sign the legislation, the White House said.
In his statement, Obama did not outline specific reforms he wants the military to implement.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are still debating a bill authored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y, which strip military commanders of the authority to prosecute sexual assault cases. However, the recently passed defense bill would prevent military commanders from overturning jury convictions and requires a civilian review if a sexual assault claim is not prosecuted.
The Pentagon estimated that at least 26,000 members of the military were sexually assaulted last year and that thousands more were afraid to come forward.
Obama pledged that sexual assaults would not be tolerated under his watch and promised future actions to prevent them.
"As commander in chief, I’ve made it clear that these crimes have no place in the greatest military on earth," Obama said.
"So long as our women and men in uniform face the insider threat of sexual assault, we have an urgent obligation to do more to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes, as appropriate under the military justice system," he added.