Senators this week launched a formal investigation into reports that Coast Guard leaders mishandled sexual assault investigations at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for years and then hid the mistakes from public view.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., called the allegations unsettling both because of the crimes committed and the lack of appropriate response from senior leaders.
The issues came to light earlier this summer after a series of reports by CNN and other outlets, chronicling dozens of sexual assault reports filed by academy cadets dating back to the late 1980s which were ignored or covered up.
“It is unclear whether those responsible have continued their careers in the Coast Guard, received higher positions of authority, or left service and escaped accountability all together,” the senators wrote in a Sept. 12 letter to service officials. “The public deserves to know why so many reported cases of sexual assault and harassment were allowed to go uninvestigated for so many years.”
Coast Guard officials in 2014 launched an investigation into years of mishandled cases at the academy, which they dubbed “Operation Fouled Anchor.” According to Senate officials, that work lasted for six years and found credible allegations of sexual misconduct by at least 43 academy staff.
But the results were never reported publicly or to lawmakers. In June, after several news outlets reported on the hidden findings, Coast Guard officials issued a public apology for “not having taken appropriate action at the time of the sexual assaults.”
Blumenthal and Johnson, the two top senators on the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, are now demanding all records related to the investigation and subsequent decisions not to make the findings public. Members of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee made similar requests of the Coast Guard earlier this summer.
Lawmakers have not yet said when hearings on the issue may take place.
In response to congressional outrage over the incident, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan in July announced plans for a 90-day “accountability and transparency” review of the service. The findings of that work have not yet been released.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.