As we write this op-ed, we read yet another senior Pentagon official (John James, head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency) has been been allowed to retire with full benefits while under investigation for a discovered 7-year long sexual misconduct behavior. We give our faith and loyalty to our military; we believe in them, and abide by what military leaders say. How does this jibe with the ongoing stories we read, almost daily, around the world about ongoing sexual misconduct at all levels; e.g., Ft. Hood Texas, Pentagon, etc…?
Another story, in the press, with more information to follow, is the largest sex scandal In US Army Reserve history unfolding at the 416th TEC, headquartered in Illinois. Ms. Amy Franck, the whistleblower and a Victim’s Advocate tried to get this Command to follow existing rules and regulations. To no avail. Again, a 3-star Commander, LTG Luckey, was permitted to retire, even though there was on-going investigation. Army Chief of Staff, GEN McConville personally attended his Retirement Ceremony.
Now, we are rocked by the DOD IG’s office which identified the horrific failure and tolerance for decades of children sexual abuse on military facilities.
What do they have in common? Sexual misconduct tolerated with the same pattern of senior leadership not held accountable and being given preferential treatment to retire or duck punishment. This includes the privilege to retire with full benefits, even when under investigation. Further, then they are allowed to return to work in the same military communities as civilian contractors providing support services and materiel.
Under the banner of zero tolerance, Pentagon officials utilize their “good old boys’ attitude”, minimize leaders’ responsibility to deal with these issues, and continue the practice in thought, word and deed of denial, intimidation and betrayal of trust to their victims. The military’s goals are: protect “the brand”, themselves and their peers.
Our Country has been willing to accept the military’s “sheen and spin” on this story. In the past, it has been enough for us to have them say, “we have got it”. No, this is a lie. The facts raise a fundamental question. Why are we not holding the 3 and 4-stars, our military top leaders, accountable for their failure to address and stop this terrible problem? These command-wide and Army-wide issues are creating a terribly toxic environment.
Ft. Hood has been a trouble spot for well over 10 years. This Command reflects multiple general and field grade officer commands, but the underlying chaos and failure remain. In any organization the “buck stops at the top”. Why aren’t we demanding that the 3-4 star generals be held responsible for their continuing unwillingness to resolve and create solutions. THEY HAVE NOT.
Here is the ugly truth. In the past few years, information was provided which now explains why when I identified the Army’s largest command-wide sex scandal at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (1996), the Army senior leadership initially strongly encouraged me and my team to identify victims, and pursue perpetrators. I wrote a 37 page, single spaced report recommending specific changes to preclude recurrence of sexual misconduct.
I trusted the Army to acknowledge the world-wide scope, and do the right thing to fix the problem. Instead they stated the sexual abuse was “an aberration …happening only in my command”. Here were the actual facts: the Army investigation and hotline documented that only 4% of sexual abuse was found in my command, and most misconduct occurred during my predecessors’ tenure. Importantly, 96% of the abuse was in other commands, world-wide. That was in 1997.
Here’s the real sordid backstory. Before being nominated for SecArmy, Togo West was forced to reimburse his civilian employer, General Dynamics, for the expenses he had charged for an apartment he maintained for mistresses in Washington DC. Knowing or should have known this story, Togo West was still nominated and approved by Congress to become Secretary of the Army.
Togo West’s Chief of Staff was General Dennis J. Reimer, who allegedly had misconduct in his background. MG David Hale allegedly blackmailed Reimer with this information to retire as a Major General. COL John Pitchford knew of this situation and led the charge to recall MG Hale to active duty to face court martial for his sexual misconduct. He was found guilty and forced to retire at a lower grade. One of the very few general officers in Army history ever to be sent to court martial.
So it was in both GEN Reimer and SecArmy’s best interest NOT to have the Aberdeen Sex Scandal land on their laps. To shift focus and possible blame, SecArmy directed his Inspector General, LTG Jared L. Bates, to re-write his report on the Aberdeen Sex Scandal to find me at fault. I took full responsibility for everything that happened and failed to happen under my watch. In 2012 I learned that the DAIG changed his report per direction of Sec. West. I was appalled to learn of this violation of law with regard to roles and missions of an Inspector General.
Now back to today. We need to hold the Sec of Defense, SECArmy, Chief of Staff, Army and the top military and civilian leadership accountable. This problem is not unique to the US Army. Every segment of our society is struggling to deal with the new reality of the #METOO, Weinstein/Epstein, and #I am Vanessa Guillen.
Parents now question: is the military a safe place to for their chlldren? We have 25 yrs of sexual assault data, trends, stories and court records documenting failure. When will military uniformed leaders and their civilian bosses have the courage to really effect true and lasting institutional and systemic changes? If not, we are in big trouble.