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Commander of Alaska missile-defense site suspended in sex inquiry

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The U.S. Army officer in charge of a remote missile-defense station in Alaska has been temporarily relieved of his command over accusations that he had turned a blind eye to improper sexual relations at the facility, an Army spokesman said Thursday.

The suspension of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Miley, commander of the 49th Missile Defense Battalion at Fort Greely, comes as policymakers in Washington have focused renewed attention on sexual harassment and sexual assault in the ranks of the U.S. armed forces.

Miley was removed from his post on Tuesday and replaced by his second-in-command, Major Scott Monson, said Marco Morales, chief spokesman for the U.S. Army Space and Military Defense Command.

Miley has been the subject of an Army investigation launched in January over accusations that improper sexual relations between Army employees were being tolerated by commanders, said Morales, who is based at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.

The allegations do not concern rape or sexual coercion, Morales said. The Army Times and other media have reported that the misconduct in question included extramarital affairs among uniformed personnel.

The origin of the allegations was not explained.

Miley "is not charged with sexual harassment or assault," Morales said. "Leaders were not charged with any sexual harassment or assault. It was more of a leadership-type investigation."

Preliminary findings were forwarded last Friday to the commanding general of the Army Space and Military Defense Command, Morales said.

"When the commander reviews all of that, then he'll make his final disciplinary action, if there is any," Morales said.

Miley's suspension came a day before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee endorsed several measures aimed at bolstering prosecution of military sexual assault cases as part of its debate on the annual defense authorization bill.

Fort Greely is a launch site for the Army's anti-ballistic missile program. The facility has 26 ground-based interceptor missiles on site and is touted as a defensive shield against any potential missile attacks from North Korea.

The facility is located near Delta Junction, Alaska, about 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks. About 540 military and civilian personnel resided at the site as of 2010, according to state records.

Heightened scrutiny of sexual misconduct in the military follows an annual Pentagon study that showed a 37 percent jump in the number of reports of unwanted sexual contact reported in the ranks, from 19,000 cases in 2011 to 26,000 last year.

It also comes amid a spate of high-profile sexual assault cases in the military.

A one-time World War II Army airfield, Fort Greely underwent numerous changes in size and mission before getting its current designation as a missile-defense launch site.

Fort Greely also provides support to the Army's Cold Regions Test Center and Northern Warfare Training Center, located at nearby Fort Wainwright.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Richard Chang)

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