The Congressional Report had no historical perspective. The authors of the Report appear to have done no background investigation, at all. The History of Black Americans at the Coast Guard Academy is only about 50 years old. The History of females at the Academy is only about 30 years old.
The Coast Guard has been around since 1790. The Academy was established in 1876. The Report appears to have gone no further back than about 2005.
The background for the Report was so weak that the Report has no persuasive value. It lacks merit. Policy makers can almost ignore it with impunity. It will not spur policy changes.
Conspicuously absent from the Report was any mention of the Cadet Webster Smith Case where a Senior Black Cadet was expelled in 2006 after being punished by a General Court-martial. Nine months after his girlfriend had aborted their child, he was charged with having raped her, among other things.
The Rape Charge was dismissed at the trial, but Cadet Smith was convicted of other charges. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail, and a Bad Conduct Discharge, among other things.
The severe undeserved punishment directed at Cadet Smith makes harassment and bullying seem like child’s play. He took it like a man. He moved on. He appealed his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court, to no avail.
This was the first court-martial of a Cadet. It was an American Tragedy. The story of the case was fully documented in a book, CONDUCT UNBECOMING AN OFFICER AND A LADY, UCGC, Vol 02, Nr 01A, by Judge London Steverson (Amazon.com).
The report, called “Righting the Ship,” also found Coast Guard leaders didn’t hold officials accountable for deficient and incomplete investigations and didn’t take corrective action to address retaliation against people who report harassment and bullying. It concludes that the service needs to make “significant improvements” in its policies and procedures.
The U.S. House Oversight and Homeland Security Committees launched the 18-month investigation after questions were raised about how complaints were handled at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Subcommittees for the two committees discussed the findings Wednesday, December 11, during a joint hearing.
By way of background, a study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2008 after a series of revelations about sexual misconduct at U.S. military academies, found that the Coast Guard was not required to report to Congress any measures taken to stem the tide of sexual assaults and harassment cases at the Coast Guard Academy. The GAO noted the Coast Guard Academy was the only U.S. military academy not required to report to Congress on sexual-misconduct cases.
According to the GAO Report, from 2003 to 2006 there were NO sexual-harassment complaints at the Coast Guard Academy, but there were 12 incidents of sexual assault reported to the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), with one incident in 2003, one in 2004, “NONE” in 2005 and 10 in 2006.
More than three-quarters said that alcohol or drugs were involved and that the offender was a fellow cadet. None of the women sought professional help and only 7 percent discussed the incident with authorities. Not enough of the male respondents answered follow-up questions to provide data, according to the Defense Department survey.
The Defense Department conducts a congressionally mandated “service academy gender relations survey” every two years at West Point, Annapolis and the U.S. Air Force Academy. CGA, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), voluntarily participated the previous year instead of doing its own survey of cadets. Participating was a way to make CGA more transparent and to give Coast Guard officials an unbiased look at the state of gender relations at the school, Fitzgerald said. Cadets were told about the survey at a meeting and could choose whether or not to complete it.
It is difficult to draw comparisons between past CGA surveys and the DOD version because the surveys use different terminology, like “sexual assault” versus “unwanted sexual contact,” and ask about different time-frames, such as a cadet's entire time at the academy versus one school year.
At the DOD academies, 9 percent of women and 1 percent of men reported experiencing some form of unwanted sexual contact in 2006, while 52 percent of women and 11 percent of men said they were sexually harassed. At CGA, 44 percent of women and 14 percent of men reported being sexually harassed. More than three-quarters said the offender was a fellow cadet.
Coast Guard Vice Adm. Michael McAllister said at the hearing the service’s senior leaders are taking “every step to foster and develop a climate that’s free from harassment, bullying and retaliation” and take all complaints seriously. The congressional investigation was launched by the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who worked on Coast Guard diversity issues throughout his career, and Thompson, in consultation with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney. Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat whose district includes the academy, said the report isn’t an attack on the Coast Guard, but if there’s a problem it needs to be fixed.
Adm. Karl Schultz, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, was asked to testify Wednesday December 11, 2019. Committee leaders said Schultz declining to appear reinforces their concerns that the Coast Guard leadership does not takes the issues seriously enough. They criticized the Coast Guard for delaying the delivery of requested documents and heavily redacting them during the investigation.
In their report, the lawmakers said other Coast Guard officers, including retired Capt. Kevin Lopes, former head of the Coast Guard Academy’s Management Department, and retired Rear Adm. James Rendon, the former Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, also declined requests to speak to the congressional investigators.
But McAllister said he spoke for the service because he is in charge of human resources, training and personnel policy. He said it was their intent to be responsive and transparent, and pursuing a diverse and inclusive service is a top priority.