Vice-chair of the House Armed Services Commitee Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) believes that there is “no evidence” of a serious sexual assault problem at Lackland Airforce Base even though 12 training officers there have been charged or are being investigated for sexual misconduct and there are at least 31 alleged victims of sexual assault.
Today, 78 members of congress led by fierce women’s advocate Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) are calling on the House Armed Services Committee to join the Air Force in investigating the vast allegations of sexual assault at Lackland.
One man has already pleaded guilty to having an improper relationship and is serving 90 days in prison. Another, Military Training Instructor, Staff Sergeant Luis Walker, will be court martialed early next week. According to a press release from Speier’s office, “He faces 28 charges of sexual contact with 10 women including sodomy and rape in technical and basic training.”
According to a local Texas paper, Thornberry doesn’t think it’s a huge issue and is putting his faith in the military to deal with the assaults:
Rep. Mac Thornberry, HASC vice chairman, recently discussed the Lackland issues with Gen. Edward Rice Jr., commander of Air Education and Training Command.
“My understanding is there is no evidence of a widespread problem,” said Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon. “It seems to be very limited, and he seems to be moving out very aggressively to deal with it.”
If the problem turns out to be limited, then the military system can probably best deal with it, Thornberry said.
Whether the the GOP controlled Armed Services Committee agrees to an investigation, the vice chair’s “no evidence” comment indicates that it will look no deeper into the base than whatever has already been uncovered by the Air Force.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta himself acknowledged the seriousness of the problem, and has issued a new directive to deal with such assaults which includes changing the reporting structure of sexual assault cases.
There were 6,350 reported cases of what the armed forces call “military sexual trauma” last year, but independent studies estimate (PDF) that there were 19,000 cases total last year, most of which went unreported.