A Congressionally appointed panel to investigate sexual assaults in the military holds a hearing today at Lackland Air Force Base, which is the scene of the sex with recruits scandal which focused new attention on the issue, 1200 WOAI’s Michael Board reports.
Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman (D-New York) chairs the committee. She tells 1200 WOAI news the goal is to see exactly what changes the military has made in response to the scandal, and whether they go far enough.
“How it has been investigated, how it has been prosecuted, how the victims have been handled,” Holtzman said.
The scandal first began being unearthed in 2011, with court martials of Air Force Military Training Instructors, some of whom were accused of having sexual relations with ten or more recruits. As the scandal grew and grabbed national attention, it focused a growing concern over the greater issue of the sexual assault of both female and male military members.
The Committee is called the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel. It will hear from victims and commanders at Lackland, following two days of public testimony in Austin.
“This is a national security issue, it is a major issue for people in the military, for their safety, and it’s an issue for the American people,” Holtzman said.
Holtzman is well positioned to get answers. As a member of the House Watergate Committee in the early 1970s, Holtzman was known for making Nixon administration officials uncomfortable until she got straight answers. It was Holtzman who grilled then President Gerald Ford about whether his pardon of Nixon was payback for being appointed Vice President.
“We are going to be meeting with trainees, we will be meeting with prosecutors, we will be meeting with commanders, defense counsel within the miltiary,” he said.
The committee will be meeting amid debate of a measure in Congress which would strip military commanders of their ability to investigate, prosecute and sentence sexual assault cases in the ranks.