Tuesday, December 7, 2004 4:16 p.m. EST
Also participating; Vice Chief of Staff USAF Gen. Michael Moseley, Spokesman Office of the inspector General Gary Comerford, Inspector General USAF Lt. Gen. Steven Polk
The Air Force IG report can be located at; http://www.af.mil/library/studies.asp
Documents provided by DoD can be located at; http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2004/d20041207dodig.pdf and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2004/d20041207igsummary.pdf
LARRY DIRITA (Pentagon spokesman): Good afternoon. I wanted to make available to folks the conclusions of a couple of investigations that have been going forward over the last period of time, and also discuss the way ahead on a very important issue involving sexual assault issues, primarily focused at the beginning on the United States Air Force Academy, but which we expanded as a department to discuss more broadly as a department and the important obligations we have going forward to always and better approach this issue in a way that is consistent across the department. So we've got the relevant officials involved in that today who will be making a handful of presentations, and then we'll take your questions.
First let me just acknowledge that we've got Undersecretary David Chu, the undersecretary for personnel and readiness here; the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General "Buzz" Moseley; the Department of Defense -- spokesman for the Department of Defense inspector general, Gary Comerford; and then the Air Force inspector general, Lieutenant General Steven Polk. And each of them will have something to say and then we'll take some questions.
What we're talking about today is our two inspectors general reports; one a Department of Defense inspector general report, another an Air Force inspector general report, on sexual misconduct at the United States Air Force Academy. We'll distribute a summary of the DOD IG report when we're finished here, and the full Air Force report.
To just give a little bit of background, there were some questions raised about two years ago, in January of '03, regarding sexual assaults at the United States Air Force Academy. And some cadets -- former cadets came forward and raised a number of serious allegations. The Air Force general counsel, at the secretary of the Air Force's direction, initiated a working group and assessed the complaints and issued a report on these complaints in June of 2003. The secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff of the Air Force initiated the Agenda for Change in May of 2003, which laid out a whole series of revisions to policy and updates to policy and new policies regarding this important issue.
Subsequent to that, the secretary of Defense appointed former Congresswoman Tilley Fowler to head a panel to take a look at the same issue and to investigate reports of some four dozen sexual assault reports over the previous 10 years at the United States Air Force Academy. So Congresswoman Fowler issued her report in September of 2003, on the 22nd of September, and suggested some areas of further investigation by the -- and that additional investigation was performed by the Air Force inspector general.
Around that same time -- I should say earlier in the year, but during the same time as a lot of these other activities, the Senate Armed Services Committee had asked the Department of Defense inspector general to look into many of the same issues.
So what we had was kind of parallel reports, investigations taking place, and I think good coordination between the Air Force inspector general and the Department of Defense inspector general with respect to who was investigating what.
Obviously, the department takes these allegations very seriously; took them very seriously at the time -- the Department of Defense, as well as the Department of the Air Force. There are areas that have been identified in all of the reports -- Congresswoman Fowler's report, as well as these two reports that you'll be briefed on today -- where we can improve prevention efforts, education efforts, provide additional support to victims, improve accountability for offenders. And this is an obligation I think that the secretary of Defense feels goes throughout the department, civilian and uniform leadership.
We have a number of ongoing initiatives as a result of these activities, including a DOD task force on the issue, which we announced not long ago and which Dr. Chu will speak about a little bit today.
So with that, I'm going to ask Mr. Comerford of the DOD Inspector General's Office to offer just a summary of his work, and then General Polk will talk about the Air Force investigation.
MR. COMERFORD: As you're aware, the DOD inspector general, Joseph Schmitz, functions as the eyes and ears of the secretary of Defense. So what I'm about to read to you is an excerpt from the memo of transmitttal to the secretary of Defense. It will outline a lot of these issues.
MR. COMERFORD: The date is December the 3rd. And it says:
"Our work involved interviewing approximately 150 people and reviewing literally thousands of documents, including documents used in previous Air Force working group and Fowler panel studies. "The attached report describes our work and presents factual findings and recommendations.
"We conclude that the overall root cause of sexual assault problems at the Air Force Academy was the, quote, `failure of successive chains of command over the past 10 years to acknowledge the severity of the problem. Consequently, they failed to initiate and monitor adequate corrective measures to change the culture until recently,' end of quote.
"Although we address each Air Force leader implicated in our report individual by individual, in a general sense we found many leaders in positions of authority could have been better role models, could have been more vigilant in inspecting those placed under those command, failed to guard and suppress sexual misconduct among cadets, whether or not prosecutable as specific crime, and failed to hold cadets accountable for such misconduct.
"We appreciate the manner in which the secretary of the Air Force and his staff have focused on this challenge since January 2003. On November 9th, we forwarded a draft report to the secretary of the Air Force, who concurred with all recommendations except one."
MR. DIRITA: Next General Polk, the Air Force inspector general.
GEN. POLK: Thank you. Good afternoon.
In January of 2003, the secretary of the Air Force directed my predecessor to review the investigative procedures and leadership responses related to the sexual assault issues identified at the Air Force Academy. We took a two-pronged approach. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations review looked at whether all proper investigative steps were followed when a cadet reported a sexual assault, with special emphasis on the evidence collection and handling procedures. The team reviewed 56 sexual assault cases that occurred between January of 1993 and February of 2004 and that were investigated by the OSI detachment at the academy. The results of their review were consistent with that of the DOD inspector general's review. Both disclose that, with minor exceptions, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations investigated sexual assaults thoroughly and timely once they were reported for investigation.
In parallel, the inspector general's Senior Official Inquiries Directorate investigated complaints and concerns from academy cadets about how their cases were handled after they reported a sexual assault. The investigators took witness testimony from cadets who were willing to provide it, gathered records, established the events as they happened. They then analyzed the results in relation to the policies and directives in effect that that time.
Overall, the investigations revealed no evidence of an intentional mishandling or willful neglect by academy officials in their response to sexual assault. Nonetheless, there were four instances in which academy officials did not follow established procedures or instructions. Three involved shortfalls in the witness assistance program and one centered on an improper mental health referral.
These findings were independently validated by a separate legal review and an oversight review conducted by the DOD inspector general. In addition to examining and reporting on individual cases and leadership actions, the investigations identified collateral issues that have been reported to command channels for action.
This concludes my statement. Thank you very much.
MR. DIRITA: Dr. Chu.
MR. CHU: Good afternoon. Thank you for being with us.
I'd like to provide a context this afternoon for the reports just released by summarizing where we are in our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault in the Department of Defense. The reports are part of a history of a sexual assault issue in this department. It is not always a proud history, but it is a history from which we must learn.
We are moving forward to make real changes and to make those changes stick. As in the case of other reports, these new reports will inform our policy decisions.
We have spent the last few months reviewing the difficult issues that arise in confronting sexual assault prevention and response. One of the most critical is victim confidentiality. We have learned that providing confidentiality to victims will actually increase the probability that cases will be reported, cases that are currently unknown to us. We want to sustain good order and discipline by holding those who assault their fellow service members accountable for their actions, but first and foremost, we want victims to come forward for help. Therefore, the Department of Defense will be instituting a policy of confidential reporting for victims. We are convinced that this policy will help the victims of sexual assault, and we are hopeful that it will improve the overall climate for reporting incidents of assault.
We are pleased that the Congress has taken action to help us achieve our policy goals. The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2005 tasks us to develop a comprehensive policy on sexual assault by the 1st of January. We are working hard to do so.
Permit me to quote briefly from the Congressional charge: The Congress in statute asks that we address at a minimum the following matters: one, prevention measures; two, education and training; three, investigation of complaints; four, medical treatment; five, confidential reporting; six, victim advocacy and intervention; seven, oversight by commanders; eight, disposition of victims of sexual assault, including review by appropriate authorities; nine, disposition of members of the armed forces accused of sexual assault; 10, liaison collaboration with civilian agencies on the provision of services to victims of sexual assault; and 11, uniform collection of data on the incidents of sexual assaults and on disciplinary actions taken in substantiated cases.
In October the senior leadership of the department met to determine our future policy direction. This summit, if I may use that word, endorsed not only the need for confidentiality but the need for a common and understandable definition, a multi-disciplinary response to victim support, greater visibility of cases and reporting, and the need to have procedures to respond to sexual assault committed by citizens of other nations.
Also in October, we established, as Mr. DiRita indicated, the Joint Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. That task force is the single entity established to best address sexual assault issues within the department. The task force is led by Brigadier General K.C. McClain. It is an interim step to a permanent office, which will be established at the conclusion of the task force's work in one year.
The joint task force is charged with developing the policies to implement the decisions made by the department's leadership and to improve our prevention efforts, enhance support to victims and increase offender accountability. The joint task force will provide the comprehensive policy on sexual assault prevention and response, as requested in the National Defense Authorization Act, and deliver it to the Congress to comply with the due date of January 1st. As a result of the joint task force work, we have already begun to promulgate the policies that will become part of the comprehensive document provided to the Congress. Thus by policy and organization the Department of Defense will provide a permanent response to this critical issue.
We recognize that sexual assault is a national problem, as well as one we face. And we will be reaching out to other federal agencies, communities and subject matter experts as we continue to develop our response to this national concern.
GEN. MOSELEY: Thank you, David Chu, and thank you all for your time this afternoon.
Now's the time for an honest, forthright discussion of what happened at the Air Force Academy. Tackling this problem is not easy, but it is crucial to keep us a strong, united force that fights as a team.
The DOD IG report details several things the Air Force did not do well. Working with Dr. Chu's team, we've already corrected many of the problems and are working hard on the rest. We have accepted 13 of the 14 recommendations. We are presently working with Dr. Chu to address the one remaining.
General John Rosa didn't wait for reports or commissions, but instead he immediately began to change the climate at the academy upon his assumption of command. The Agenda for Change is well on its way and has the Air Force secretary's, the chief's and my wholehearted support.
The details for the Agenda for Change follow.
Air Force Academy leadership is charged with creating and maintaining officer development at its highest standards.
Air Force leadership is charged with communicating with faculty and cadets forthrightly about status of cases.
Cadet life, cadet interaction, dormitories and alcohol/sexual assault reporting has been highlighted as items of interest and items to create a much more healthy climate on reporting.
Loyalty to values/institution superseding loyalty to someone betraying values has also been a focus of General Rosa.
Cadet support groups aggressively addressing concerns of victims has also been a focus of General Rosa and the Agenda for Change.
Cadet commanders will be held accountable for their actions and for subordinates within each of the cadet squadrons.
General Rosa's established a cadet mentoring program across the board of the cadet wing.
The "Bring me men" sign has been removed from the Terrazzo wall at the academy.
We've all worked through the personnel system and through General Rosa and the Agenda for Change to enhance air officer commanding and noncommissioned officer selection and training, as well as a complete review of officer and senior NCO assignment policies and tour links.
Lastly, General Rosa and the Agenda for Change are recognizing that academic and athletic elements are key contributors to the military training but perhaps not the single military purpose at the academy.
Some of the other specific changes General Rosa and his team has made is standing up an academy response team to provide immediate assistance. General Rosa's team also ensures victim needs are met and crimes are investigated. He replaced the fourth-class system with a fourth -- with a four-class system, eliminating the abuse of power seen from the old fourth-class system. Under this new template, cadets will experience increasingly tough growth and leadership challenges during each of the four years at the academy. He's completely revamped basic cadet training to model respect and dignity. Cadets' discipline is now based on the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Cadets, academy staff and academy leadership undergo annual training that details sexual assault prevention, victims assistance and workplace behaviors. The new curriculum requires additional courses in leadership and character development.
We've also made some changes from the headquarters level. Additional manpower has been added to the academy faculty and staff to ensure they have the resources they need to accomplish their mission. We've been blessed with a reinvigorated board of visitors under the leadership of Governor Jim Gilmore. The board of visitors now meets quarterly and is fully engaged in addressing the academy's challenges. We've added a new Air Staff office to better integrate headquarters and assisting the academy, and finally we've replaced every officer above the group level at the academy. The new leadership team is committed to developing an atmosphere where cadets learn leadership based on mutual respect and teamwork.
So how do we know these initial efforts are working? The class of 2008 set a new record for the most female applicants, more than 3,000. Academy programs remain in the top echelon in areas such as aerospace, aeronautical, astronautical, electrical, electronic and communications engineering. Attrition numbers are down and confidence in leadership is up. Social climate surveys have been administered to cadets, faculty and staff, and will continue to be completed on an annual basis.
However, true cultural change takes time. We've taken the steps to put the academy back on the right track. We are also using these findings to fix our response to sexual assault throughout the Air Force. Our main focus is to make sure we're taking care of our people, making sure the victims of sexual assault and sheltered and protected by the Air Force, to include continual care through permanent change of station, and even as a person separates from the Air Force back into the civilian community. We've also looked at enhanced ways to work our lab business and to accelerate the return of lab samples back into the Office of Special Investigation world to be able to accelerate the investigations.
And along the way we're sharing what we've learned with the other services. We're committing to develop an atmosphere at the academy where cadets are trained to be leaders of courage and character. The lessons of the past year have changed us at the individual level; at all levels of leadership, especially command; and as an institution. We must and will continue down this new path. We owe that to our country. We owe that to our military men and women in harm's way this afternoon. And we owe that to our nation's sons and daughters.
So Dr. Chu, thank you for the opportunity to be here with you, and thank you for your time this afternoon.
MR. CHU: General Moseley and I would be glad to take your questions.
Q General, could you tell us, how do you think -- you say you're changing the culture. How did the Air Force Academy get to the point, and what point was it at prior to this culture change?
GEN. MOSELEY: I think we had a set of activities at the Air Force Academy that's not unlike any other academic institution across the country where there was perhaps trust that needed to be watched a little more closely and actions needed to be a little quicker. And we needed a much more in-depth approach to preempting any of this, as opposed to reacting after it occurred. We also, remember, in the accountability piece of this, have changed out the entire leadership at the academy as well as begun to work through the cadet wing on accountability issues at each of the levels in the four-class system.
MR. CHU: Sir, go ahead.
Q You're talking here about -- that there's a problem that needed changing and you addressed the problem. But when we get to brass tacks, case by case, you're saying there wasn't any major problems. What exactly is the problem that you're fixing if all the 56 cases and all the prosecutions were actually well handled, as it turns out?
MR. CHU: The problem is deeper than the handling of individual cases, and I think that's the import of these two reports being issued together.
The problem starts with the willingness of victims to come forward. One of the things we know -- this is true in civil society as well; we know this is true within the department -- is victims don't trust our process. That's why -- while I'm not here to describe what we're going to roll out on January 1st, the one thing I do want to emphasize is we will have confidentiality for victims because we know we have to establish that trust for people to come forward and acknowledge that they have been injured. Then we need to do a whole series of things better in the department about how we deal with victims once they have come forward.
What the Air Force IG report speaks to is, once an official complaint has been lodged, how well is that handled? But that is, in my judgment, the least of our difficulties.
Q Dr. Chu --
MR. CHU: Yes, ma'am?
Q -- the IG report, the DOD IG report, identifies that eight individuals in specific, who are not named in the summary, are -- were -- you know, had failings. They didn't --
MR. CHU: They could have done better.
Q Could have done better. Not only could have done better, they actually contributed to the problem. And you know, my question is, what are you going to do about those eight individuals? Are they current Air Force leaders? Can you identify them? And can you say that -- you know, if there will be disciplinary action taken?
And also the summary makes mention of evidence that, in fact, senior leaders knew about the problem before the e-mail -- the tipster e-mail or the whistleblower e-mail -- came in January '03, and that there is still an investigation under way. Can you speak to that?
MR. CHU: Yes. I'll speak to both issues you raised, how we're going to proceed and also other evidence.
This is a report, as the summary date indicates, that arrived on the secretary's desk, so to speak, last Friday. What that does is trigger a set of processes in which, on a case-by-case basis, we and the Air Force, depending on the jurisdiction here, we all consider what action is appropriate in each individual's case. And what I would emphasize here is that actions speak louder than words, and the Air Force has already taken, months ago, a set of actions that demonstrated that we need to change. It replaced the management at the academy, and I think that's a very important step and we should keep that in mind.
We're not here this afternoon to name the specific individuals. There's a separate set of processes that will deal with that. Those will now unfold.
To the question raised by your query as to other documents, the Defense IG -- the service IGs are very good about never closing the books on something because other material may come forward, and if it indicates that someone's culpable or some other action be taken, we'll deal with that. That's all I have to say on the first two. So --
Q Can I just follow-up, please? Just to follow up, can you say if the eight individuals are currently serving in the Air Force, or have they already retired?
MR. CHU: For a variety of reasons and privacy, I don't want to stand at this podium and indict people by giving hints as to who they may or may not be.
Q Well, it's kind of a follow-up on that point. I mean, there's been some criticism from folks in Congress. We've heard complaints for months that this thing has dragged on so long that many of the people that are on that list of eight could have retired already. I mean, there was --
MR. CHU: That doesn't preclude us from taking actions.
Q Is it -- can you elaborate on something that's in the summary report about any possible new information that officials at the academy might have known about this problem as early as July 2002?
MR. CHU: No. That's a lead the Defense IG is following up.
Q Or can you say -- can you -- can you talk about -- it also makes reference to two legal experts that had advised the Air Force on the policies that were in place. What kind of review are they going to --
MR. CHU: They will get a similar review, as I described, as applies to all the officials, but that will be -- because, as lawyers, they are legal advisers, they'll be handled by the Joint Council of the Department of Defense.
Q But what, though? I mean, what did they do or not do? Is it in review in particular?
MR. CHU: At this stage that's not something we can put out there in the public domain.
Q Sir, while you're talking about the Air Force Academy, obviously this has import across the services and through enlisted and officer ranks. What sort of training are you going to institute I guess for the whole force; or are you?
GEN. CHU: Changes have already begun in the training regime. We recognize -- we already had substantial training on sexual assault for our force, starting with basic training. We recognize we need to reinforce that. That needs to start with -- and this is one of the things we're developing in response to our own self-evaluation and the Congress's direction -- a clear, understandable definition of what is sexual assault.
One of the things -- I know this sounds astounding -- one of the things that often happens here is the individual will not necessarily characterize what happened as sexual assault. So this needs to be written in plain English such that the typical recruit at basic training can understand what we're saying. This is not written for the lawyers, although the lawyers have to agree to its wording so we don't send people off in the wrong direction. But it starts with that very fundamental step.
So it will be something we reinforce even further than we now do at basic training, and it's something we'll reinforce at other training stages as people proceed through a military career.
Q General Moseley, what about similar investigations, such as Sheppard Air Force Base? Are we going to see this kind of attention placed, on Sheppard?
GEN. MOSELEY: Exactly. In fact, that's a good question that follows up to this gentleman's question. What we've done is we have gone out also and asked for the experts in the civilian community to come in and give us their perspective on what they've seen from our activities at Sheppard and also at the academy. We've asked several academic experts to come and spend time with the senior Air Force leadership but also to help develop a curriculum that we are using now in fleshing out at the Airman Leadership School, at NCO academies, at our Squadron Officer School, our basic course, our command and staff college, our war college, and for commanders to use at commander's calls and for NCOs and first sergeants to be able to use in the workplace.
What we found at Sheppard was that we had a set of activities that people felt more free to go to civilian entities to talk about than our own. We failed in that we need to be able to provide that environment that Dr. Chu is talking about, that we have people that come to Air Force entities and feel free to discuss this under those DOD policies that are being developed, which then allow us to protect and to take action and to also provide care as that individual moves from base to base or into the civilian community.
Q At an institution like Sheppard, though -- to follow up --
MR. CHU: Say again?
Q At an institution like Sheppard, though -- to follow up -- how can you ensure confidentiality for a cadet when often those are very close communities and an investigation into someone's dorm room or asking, you know, colleagues will start, you know, a rumor?
MR. CHU: Well, that's an implementation challenge. We think we can meet that challenge. Society is plagued by gossip; I recognize that reality. But it's part of the issue we'll address, is how do we keep what people wish to have private private.
Q I just wanted to ask General Moseley -- because I think you hinted at this when you started out -- what's at work here? Is this a problem of the culture of the Air Force Academy or the culture of the Air Force? Or is it the culture of American society? I mean, how do you see it?
GEN. MOSELEY: Sir, I think it's all of that. I think it is our responsibility to deal with our Air Force problem and to provide a workplace with dignity and respect, and a safe environment for our people to serve honorably in their country. The people come to us from a greater population, but that does not take us off the hook to have the best possible care, the best possible environment, and the tightest relationship to ensure that that dignity occurs at all levels in the Air Force, to include the Academy, but also to include ROTC, to include OTS, to include basic training and tech schools, and to include every workplace in the Air Force, whether we're expeditionary deployed or home stationed.
And the things that we learn from Sheppard -- General K.C. McClain, who is now Dr. Chu's point person on this, was in fact the officer that the Air Education Training Command sent to Sheppard to conduct that investigation -- to be able to pull that back into the department in general, but also for the Air Force, that's our challenge.
MR. CHU: Sir? Back here.
MR. DIRITA: Just one or two more.
Q General, what was the DOD recommendation that you didn't accept and why?
MR. CHU: Let me deal with that. That concerns confidentiality and how we're going to carry it out. The inspector general, I should emphasize, is conducting his review in the context of policies as they then existed; i.e., in the 1990s and early 2000s. We're on the cusp of changing that policy, as I suggested. So we're going to have a different regime going forward. And so that's the one area where there is a difference, but the department's going to resolve that in favor of a strong confidentiality policy. And we'll announce the actual full policy suite after the first of the year, once we send it to the Congress.
Q And maybe if the general could say why -- you know, what the problem is that the Air Force has with that.
GEN. MOSELEY: Well, it's not a problem, it's a challenge of maintaining confidentiality so you can do what this lady was asking, while being able then to prosecute a crime.
MR. CHU: Let me emphasize, the Air Force is not in disagreement with what I just said. In fact, the commitment to the confidentiality is a commitment made by all three service secretaries, all four service chiefs in a summit meeting that was my privilege to chair in October.
So this is where we're headed. That's not where we were. I should emphasize that we and the inspector general in all this share the same goal, and that goal is to encourage people to come forward, which is what they're not doing now, and to ensure that once an official report is made followed through appropriately, expeditiously, and those who are guilty of infractions are brought to justice.
Let me try one more. Yes, sir.
Q Can you explain what the new department-wide confidentiality program is going to be, how it's going to operate. And if it had been implemented, let's say 10 years ago, would all of these allegations, all these incidents at the Air Force Academy have been prevented?
MR. CHU: The first part of your question is not yet -- after 1 January; be patient. To the second, I think that's hypothetical. I think it's not useful to go back and try to -- we can't replay history. Can't rewind the tape and see -- try to simulate what would have occurred.
Q Dr. Chu?
MR. CHU: Yes?
Q There was a reference in one of the internal e-mails belonging to Air Force Secretary Roche that was released as part of a Boeing tanker case in which Secretary Roche speaks disparagingly of the female cadets at the Air Force Academy and says he's going back to speak with "the little darlings." Does that trouble you? Is that something that you've addressed with Secretary Roche?
GEN. MOSELEY: Let me address that. The "little darlings" comments was not focused necessarily on female cadets as it was on cadets who believed themselves above the law, and that cadets who believed that outside of UCMJ authority and outside of what's right relative to the dignity and respect of fellow cadets put themselves above the law. So if Dr. Roche were here, I believe he would make that point, that his disparaging remark was focused on those that thought themselves either above the law or outside of the boundaries.
MR. CHU: Thank you all very much. I appreciate it.
MR. DIRITA: Thank you.
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