"No Action" On Sexual Assault Scandal at United States Air Force Academy
Thursday, March 31, 2005 8:40 AM

Acting United States Air Force Secretary Peter Teets reported in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that no action should be taken against Air Force Academy officers in command during the Academy's sexual assault scandal. In the letter Teets praised the officers “uniformly excellent and long service” and indicated that he gave “significant weight to the fact that they were not intentionally or willfully derelict in their duties. Moreover, any mistakes or misjudgments some of them may have been mitigated by the complexity of the issues faced, the necessity of policy tradeoffs and compromises, and the difficulty of measuring program effectiveness. …The record of missed warning signs is disturbing but these officers acted in good faith.”

The decision follows the Department of Defense inspector general investigation into allegations made in 2003 by female cadets of the United States Air Force Academy. The female cadets alleged that sexual assaults were frequent occurrences at the Air Force Academy and that when assaults were reported to academy officials they were routinely dismissed or not vigorously prosecuted. The victims of the sexual assaults were more likely to be penalized for breaking a rule related to the assault than was the perpetrator of the assault. The investigation’s resulting report stated in part: "We found many leaders in positions of authority could have been better role models, could have been more vigilant in inspecting those placed under their command, failed to guard and suppress sexual misconduct among cadets ... and failed to hold cadets accountable for such misconduct."

Air Force Capt. David Small, speaking on behalf of the Air Force said that Peter Teets' letter concludes the investigation of the Air Force. "Mr. Teets did accept the findings of the (inspector general's) report, and chose no administrative action was necessary," Small said. "This puts a little closure on it, at least for the Air Force."

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, of New York, sharply criticized the Air Force’s decision: "It is reprehensible that the rights of sexual assault victims are so easily sidelined by the Pentagon as `too complex' to address. This is the kind of `head in the sand' approach we would have expected from the military in the 1950's; in 2005 it is an abomination. Where is the accountability? … What the Pentagon clearly doesn't want to discuss, and what all Americans should know, is that women are being sexually assaulted on an ongoing basis in the military and at our nation's military academies by their colleagues. Action must be taken. Until the Pentagon insists on accountability, there can be no real change and as a result, our women in uniform will continue to suffer. Is this the best we can do for young Americans who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom?"

Compiled from: Air Force brass likely won't be punished after academy sex scandal Huspeni, Dennis, The Gazette, 29 March 2005; Sexual assaults in military bring shame, not action USA TODAY, 27 March 2005; Pentagon Announces "No Action" On Sexual Assault Problem at Air Force Academy Rep Louise Slaughter, 25 March 2005.