DODIG: Not All USAFA Sexual Assault Cases Were Reported to Congress

The US Air Force Academy's Class of 2019 stands at attention during its first full day of military training which started with a swearing-in ceremony as family watched from an overlook near the Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colo., on June 26, 2015. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan.

A Defense Department Inspector General investigation published Oct. 2 found that the Pentagon failed to tell Congress about 11 sexual assault reports that US Air Force Academy cadets lodged with the school’s Family Advocacy Program, despite a legal requirement to do so.

DOD also did not inform lawmakers of 24 archived cases reported from 2015 to 2017, the IG found, though the watchdog could not prove whether the Air Force had to submit those reports.

The DODIG’s deep-dive further determined that the Academy’s sexual assault response coordinator lacked a process for documenting interactions with cadets who chose not to file official incident reports. Neither did USAFA systematically track its referrals to victim support services for those who didn’t file reports, the IG said.

Still, DODIG found that the Academy didn’t kick out cadets for reporting assaults, and that Air Force Office of Special Investigations agents generally followed Pentagon and service policies when responding to and investigating those claims. The report added that Academy staff properly provided sexual assault prevention and response services to students and made further support services available.

USAFA did not comment on the findings by press time.

The Air Force and higher DOD offices have started work on the inspector general’s recommendations, but the watchdog said it is waiting to see if all suggestions are implemented.

For example, DODIG wants the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness to start a process for accurately counting sexual assault cases managed through the Air Force’s Family Advocacy Program in all future military academy sexual harassment and violence reports.

Other recommendations include:

  • The Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) should institute a process to record its consultations and contacts with victims, as well as to document referrals to other services, when cadets decline to officially report their claims.
  • A key DOD sexual assault incident database should include a field for administrators to state why certain reports of sexual assault are archived.
  • The Air Force SAPRO director should handle the process of archiving database reports differently.

USAFA, Air Force and DOD officials must respond to the findings and inform DODIG of its work to follow the recommendations within 90 days of Sept. 30, according to a letter from Randolph Stone, the DODIG’s assistant inspector general for space, intelligence, engineering, and oversight evaluations.