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Military & Veterans' Issues

Congressional Panel Hears Differing Opinions In Air Force Sex Scandal

General Edward Rice testifies in front of the House Armed Services Committee.

Air Force Top brass told a Congressional committee Wednesday that they had failed in their responsibility to maintain order and discipline among Lackland basic training instructors.

Veterans who were sexual assault victims told the committee that the culture of power abuse is the same today as it was decades ago when they served in the Air Force.

Two retired non-commissioned officers, both victims of multiple sexual assaults during their service, told the House Armed Services Committee that things won’t change in the Air Force unless the investigation is moved outside the chain of command. They said victims today are still afraid to report their abuses.

Congressman Joaquín Castro, who is now a member of the Committee, said testimony indicates more investigation is needed.
“It was essentially confirmed that there had been some occasions where folks have been convicted of sexual assault or plead guilty to charges of sexual assault in the military and still been honorably discharged,” Castro said. "That shouldn’t happen.”

Commanders who were in charge of the Air Force Training Wing were reassigned last year as the Air Force investigation picked up speed. Castro says everyone who was involved in the scandal should be brought to justice.

“Not only to the people who are frontline perpetrators of these things, but also if there is a bureaucracy, if there is a hierarchy that ignores this kind of behavior, then they should be brought to bear,” he said.

Gen. Edward Rice, Jr. of San Antonio’s Air Education and Training Command told the committee he has implemented about half of the 46 recommendations from last year's command investigation into the sex scandal and had confidence those fixes would work.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III told Congress that a new cadre of 60 Air Force attorneys have been identified and trained to serve as victims’ counsel.

But Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who with two other committee members visited Lackland last year, has proposed legislation to have outside authorities intervene in cases of sexual abuse in the Air Force.

Two courts-martial are scheduled next week at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.