House Committee Still Sidestepping Hearing on Air Force Sexual Assaults
While calls for a full Congressional hearing about the sex scandal at Lackland Air Force Base have gone unheeded, the House Armed Services Committee is holding a closed-door briefing about the incident with the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, next week.
“When you’re dealing with instances like these, generally the path that the committee takes is first you hear from senior leaders in the organization involved, in this case the Air Force,” Claude Chafin, the committee’s communications director, told KHTS in Santa Margarita, California, which is in the district of committee chair Buck McKeon.
“And very often, as in this case, that organization is doing their own investigation. In this case, they’re undergoing their own prosecutions. Generally, you see the outcome of that process before the committee enters into their own investigative process,” he said.
Over the past several weeks, there has been a big push for the committee to hold a hearing to investigate the widespread incidents at the Lackland Air Force base, in which thirty-one victims of sex crimes have been identified and twelve instructors are under investigation. One instructor, Sgt. Luis Walker, was sentenced to twenty years in prison this weekend for crimes including rape and sexual assault.
So far, many Republican Congressmen’s sentiments have mirrored Chafin’s, saying they want the Air Force investigation to be over before taking any action.
But Democratic Representative Jackie Speier has spoken on the House floor three times already about Lackland—she thinks it’s misguided wait for the results of a criminal investigation conducted by the Air Force bureaucracy that let the crimes happen in the first place. Her letter to leadership demanding hearings has garnered the signatures of seventy-seven Congressmen, and the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders also started a petition that, as of Wednesday, had more than 8,000 signatures. The group began a Twitter campaign Tuesday targeting McKeon with the hashtag #AskBuck.
For Protect Our Defenders, a closed-door briefing to delay a hearing is not enough.
“This is unacceptable. The widening scandal at Lackland demands a full congressional hearing and investigation — it is a matter of our national security,” said Nancy Parrish, president of the group, in a statement Wednesday. “Our armed forces’ top brass hasn’t fixed the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in our military and it is very apparent it needs to be addressed legislatively. Hearings are part of this process.”
Read more on the Lackland scandal: ‘Lackland Instructor Convicted for Sex Crimes, As Pressure on Congress Mounts’