Air Force Academy sex assault office to be investigated by Pentagon Inspector General

Author: Tom Roeder, The Gazette - February 28, 2018 - Updated: February 28, 2018

In this 2009 file photo, the Air Force Thunderbirds fly over head as graduating cadets celebrate with the “hat toss” after graduation ceremonies at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, file)

The Pentagon’s Inspector General announced Wednesday that it will investigate the troubled Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the Air Force Academy.

It’s the third probe into issues with the office, where last year the Air Force found that leaders failed to care for victims amid leadership that investigators called “derelict.”

The new investigation will examine whether the office can “respond to, support, and provide victim care to cadet victims of sexual assault,” the Pentagon said.

The latest investigation comes after congressional scrutiny hit the school following revelations about the sexual assault office first reported in The Gazette. The issues with the office were detailed in a 560-page report released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The report called for the firing of the office’s former boss, Teresa Beasley, and revealed an office atmosphere that witnesses compared to a toxic high school. The report said victims were ignored as employees of the office filed claims and counterclaims against each other.

The academy has since rebuilt the office with new employees. But that didn’t slow down lawmakers who want answers.

“In response to inquiries from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, dated December 13, 2017, and Senators Mazie Hirono and Tom Udall, dated January 3, 2018, the DoD Office of Inspector General will evaluate aspects of the United States Air Force Academy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program,” the agency said.

The inspector general’s probe will likely take six months or more as investigators quiz witnesses and rifle through piles of paperwork.

The investigation also is expected to be wider than earlier looks at the sexual assault office. It will incorporate an examination of the Office of Special Investigations at the academy to determine if it properly investigates assaults and also examine the school’s mental health care system.

Investigators will also examine whether some sexual assault victims were unfairly discharged from the school.

The academy didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.

Tom Roeder, The Gazette

Tom Roeder, The Gazette