A civilian panel appointed by Congress to investigate the sexual assault scandal at the US Air Force Academy released its findings Monday, charging that the institution’s commanders repeatedly failed to take responsibility and adequately respond to the problem. Former Florida Rep. Tillie Fowler, chair of the seven-member panel, said “Most [sexual assault victims] suffered alone because of an atmosphere of fear and retribution by peers aided by either indifference, incompetence or a combination of both by an academy leadership they believe failed them,” according to the Boston Globe.
The report, which found 142 sexual assault allegations at the academy during the period from 1993 to 2002, was delivered to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Air Force Secretary James Roche on Monday and followed two other recent reports, including one in August by the Department of Defense and one in June by Air Force general counsel Mary Walker. Addressing a conclusion from the Defense Department document, the civilian panel report wrote, “The panel believes that the Air Force general counsel attempted to shield Air Force headquarters from public criticism by focusing exclusively on events at the academy… The failure of… leadership to respond aggressively and in a timely and committed way to eliminate causes of serious problems was a failure of leadership. Those responsible should be held accountable,” reported the Globe. Among the top brass criticized were current dean of faculty Brig. Gen. David A. Wagie as well as former officials Lt. Gen. John Dallager, Brig. Gen. S. Taco Gilbert III and Col. Laurie Sue Slavec. The panel offered 21 recommendations, including greater oversight of the academy, more access to trained counselors, and confidential reporting for victims of sexual assault.