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Evaluation of the DoD’s Handling of Incidents of Sexual Assault Against (or Involving) Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy DODIG-2019-125

Evaluation

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Publicly released: October 2, 2019

Objective

The objectives of this evaluation were to determine whether:

  • the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) sexual assault response coordinator (SARC) and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) victim advocates (collectively referred to in this report as USAFA SAPR personnel) provided SAPR services to cadet-victims of sexual assault as required by DoD and Air Force policy;
     
  • Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) agents investigated reports of sexual assaults involving cadet-victims in accordance with DoD and Air Force policy;
     
  • USAFA commanders and decision makers retaliated against cadet-victims by disenrolling them from the USAFA for reporting sexual assault; and
     
  • the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (USD[P&R]) annually reported the correct number of cadet-victim reports of sexual assaults to Congress.

Background

The purpose of the USAFA SAPR program is to provide a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week sexual assault response capability to support cadet-victims of sexual assault. Additionally, USAFA SAPR personnel are required to provide crisis intervention to cadet-victims, inform cadet-victims of their reporting options, refer cadet-victims to victim support services, and provide on‑going support to cadet-victims of sexual assault.

The Secretary of Defense is required to submit reports to Congress related to sexual assaults in the military, including the number of sexual assaults that occur at the Military Service Academies each year.

Findings

We determined that:

  • USAFA SAPR personnel provided SAPR services to cadet‑victims and victim support services were available to cadet-victims at the USAFA as required by DoD and Air Force policy. However, we  determined that the USAFA SARC did not have a process to document “contacts and consults” with cadet-victims who chose not to make an official report of sexual assault or a means to document any resulting referrals to victim support services;
     
  • AFOSI agents generally responded to and investigated reports of sexual assault in accordance with DoD and Air Force policy; and
     
  • USAFA commanders and decision makers did not retaliate against cadet-victims by disenrolling them from the USAFA for reporting sexual assault.

Furthermore, we determined that 11 cadet-victim reports of sexual assaults that were made to the USAFA Family Advocacy Program (FAP) were not reported to Congress as required by Public Law 109-364. In addition, we identified 24 reports of sexual assaults from January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2017, that were not reported to Congress, although we could not determine, because of insufficient documentation by the Air Force Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database Program Administrator, whether they were required to be reported.

Recommendations

We recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness develop and institute a process to ensure that the accurate number of reports of sexual assaults made to the United States Air Force FAP are included in all future annual reports on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies.

We also recommend that the Director of the Department of Defense SAPR Office develop and institute a process that documents consults or contacts with victims of sexual assault and any resulting referrals to victim support services if those contacts do not result in an official sexual assault report. Further, we recommend that the Director of the Department of Defense SAPR Office update the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database to include a field for the Military Service Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database Program Administrators to record the reason that reports of sexual assault are archived in the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database.

In addition, we made recommendations to the Director of the Air Force SAPR Office regarding the process used to archive and document the reasons for archiving reports of sexual assault in the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database.

Management Comments and Our Response

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, agreed with our recommendation to develop and institute a process to ensure that the accurate number of reports of sexual assaults made to the United States Air Force FAP are included in all future annual reports on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved but will remain open. We will close the recommendation once we verify that Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness has developed and instituted the process.

As a result of management comments, we redirected the recommendation to develop and institute a process that documents consults and contacts with sexual assault victims and any resulting referrals to victim support services to the Department of Defense SAPR Office Director who has the authority to implement this recommendation across the DoD. This recommendation was originally made to the Air Force SAPR Office Director, who disagreed with the recommendation, stating that it would potentially harm victims of sexual assault and impose an administrative burden on Air Force SAPR Office personnel. However, the Department of Defense SAPRO Director agreed with the recommendation, and said that he would ensure that a process was implemented. Therefore, this recommendation is resolved but remains open. We will close this recommendation once we verify that Department of Defense SAPR Office Director has developed and instituted the process.

The Department of Defense SAPR Office Director agreed with our recommendation to include a field for the Military Service Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database Program Administrators to record the reason that reports of sexual assault are archived in the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database. Therefore, this recommendation is resolved but remains open. We will close this recommendation once we verify that the Department of Defense SAPR Office Director updated the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database.

The Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters United States Air Force, responding for the United States Air Force SAPR Office Director, agreed with the intent of our recommendations regarding the process used to archive and document the reasons for archiving reports of sexual assault in the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database stating that the United States Air Force SAPR Office Director would address all recommendations by September 30, 2019. Therefore, these recommendations are resolved but remain open. We will close these recommendations once we verify that the United States Air Force SAPR Office Director’s actions meet the intent of our recommendations. Please see the Recommendations Table on the next page for the status of recommendations.

This report is a result of Project No. D2018-C009.000.