WASHINGTON – A Pentagon report critical of the role of commanders at the Air Force Academy (search) was blasted as inadequate by at least one former cadet who claims she was raped by a classmate.
Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz (search) blamed, but did not identify, eight Air Force officers for their roles in policies that oversaw sexual-assault reporting at the academy, according to a summary of the report.
Twenty-one other officers were found to have acted appropriately.
"It looks to me like they took a list of officers who are not on their good list and held them accountable when the officers who actually were the ones committing the wrongdoings at the academy were on the list that were exonerated," former cadet Beth Davis (search) said Tuesday.
Davis, who left the academy as a junior in August 2002, said she was punished for reporting that she was raped — receiving a demerit for having sex in a dorm — and said her alleged attacker was not prosecuted.
The Pentagon did not release Schmitz's full report. Instead, Schmitz quoted from his report in a Dec. 3 memo to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) made public Tuesday.
Schmitz said academy commanders failed to recognize and deal with the seriousness of sexual assaults against female cadets. Academy leaders should have been better role models and should have kept a closer watch on their commands, he said.
"We conclude that the overall root cause of the sexual assault problems at the Air Force Academy was the 'failure of successive chains of command over the past 10 years to acknowledge the severity of the problem,'" Schmitz wrote.
Responding to the criticism, assistant Air Force secretary Michael Dominguez (search) said on NBC's "Today" Wednesday that academy officials "could have and should have done many things better. But, remember, these people were wrestling with a national problem. The failure was that they really didn't recognize the magnitude of it."
Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa said he could not comment on the full report, but said there are indications of progress in making cultural changes to prevent problems.
Outside investigations have concluded the academy's culture created conditions that contributed to the problem. That included lingering resistance to having female cadets at all: Last year, a survey of cadets found 22 percent did not believe women belonged at the academy, more than a quarter of a century after they were first admitted.
Last year, nearly 150 women came forward with accusations that they had been sexually assaulted by fellow cadets between 1993 and 2003. Many alleged they were punished for infractions such as drinking, ignored or ostracized by commanders for speaking out. Two cadets have been charged with sexual assault stemming from the investigation.
Air Force officials say matters have improved since the assaults came to light. Gen. T. Michael "Buzz" Moseley, the Air Force's vice chief of staff, said more than 3,000 women applied for admission to the academy for the academic year that started this fall — a record.
The Air Force inspector general is still investigating the academy assaults. An internal Air Force working group investigation concluded in June 2003 that there was no cover-up by academy leaders, but some female cadets still feared retaliation for reporting attacks.
In response to sexual assault issues at the academy and in the armed forces, David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the Pentagon would soon implement a new military-wide policy protecting the confidentiality of people who report being sexually assaulted.
"First and foremost, we want victims to come forward for help," something that hasn't happened enough in the past, Chu said.
Former Congresswoman Tillie K. Fowler, who headed a congressionally appointed panel that investigated the academy's culture, said she was disappointed with the Pentagon inspector general's report.
She said it did not hold accountable officers whom she said failed to "exercise the judgment, awareness and resourcefulness necessary to recognize that there was a sexual misconduct and social climate problem in their command."
Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, had said he would hold a public hearing to allow victims a chance to speak after the Pentagon inspector general's office issued its report. Spokesman John Ullyot said Tuesday that Warner will talk with other committee members before deciding whether to hold a hearing.
"The inspector general found that there was no willful or intentional neglect," Dominguez told "Today."
"We did not do it as effectively as we ought to," he said, "but it wasn't because we dismissed these cases. Generally, people cared. They cared about those cadets and they cared about our airmen and we're trying to fix this problem."