A high-level Space Force official was allowed to keep his job after an Inspector General's investigation found he fostered an inappropriate workplace environment with crude behavior such as keeping sex toys at work.
"Mr. Cox remains the director of the Space Warfighting Analysis Center," an Air Force spokesperson told the Air Force Times of Andrew Cox, a senior civilian Space Force official who was the subject of the investigation. "The matter was addressed through established civilian personnel processes."
The trouble for Cox started in 2013, around the time he became director of the Pentagon’s Space Security and Defense Program, according to an Air Force Times report Friday. The senior leader had received a framed pair of tight, silver pants as a gag gift, which he hung in his office with a note that instructed people to "break here in the event of an emergency."
Cox would sometimes refer to the pants to others in the office, joking that they may help to seduce leaders in Washington into providing their department with more funding.
But the pants weren't the only time the investigation found Cox had kept sex toys in the office. Just a few years later, Cox received a new gift containing a silver case filled with sex toys and other paraphernalia, while in 2018 he wore a "mankini" over his clothes in the office at a workplace holiday gathering in front of employees and their families.
"It was chartreuse green, and he brought it out into the main area," one person told investigators. "He [told us he] put it on in front of his wife and bent over and said, ‘Honey, how do you like this?’"
In a 2019 incident during a meeting with subordinates, Cox retrieved the silver case containing sex toys from his office and opened it on the table in front of other employees.
"When I turned around at one point, I saw the director had removed a pair of handcuffs and was dangling them in his hands," a female interviewee told investigators.
Cox was known to frequently make sexual remarks in the office, discussing male genital piercings and oral sex. He was also known to use the "That’s what she said" joke in the office, which is meant to sexualize otherwise innocuous comments.
The senior leader's behavior prompted an Air Force inspector general investigation in 2020, which was able to substantiate many of the claims made about Cox over the years.
Employees interviewed during the investigation described Cox as a brilliant leader who asks "some of the best questions … of any leader in the Space Force," but often ran his department more like a frat house.
"He has a leadership style where he likes to bring everybody in, kind of take the problem apart … and have lots of people in the room," one employee told investigators. "When he’s not talking business, [he] is … acting like a 13-year-old boy."
"Cox has done good things for this country — things that most people will never know about," another interviewee said. "I … want him there, just without the [character] issues."
The investigation found that one female contractor who worked for SSDP quit as a result of Cox's antics, alleging that the senior leader told her he would "treat [her] differently" and without his usual "silliness" when she complained about his behavior.
Cox reportedly attempted to clean up his behavior after multiple employee complaints and removed the sexual items from his office by November 2020, but the damage had already been done.
"Complainants and [redacted] clearly lost confidence in his leadership, despite their appreciation of his leadership outside of this behavior," the investigation concluded. "[His] conduct was improper and unsuitable [and] compromised his standing as a senior executive service civilian."
Despite the investigation finding the complaints about Cox were true, he remained a senior leader with a six-figure salary and was eventually given a position overseeing a new unit focused on space combat planning, the Air Force Times said.
Cox appealed the investigation's findings, resulting in the Air Force dropping three of the six allegations of misconduct against him, according to an Air Force letter sent to Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., that was obtained by the Air Force Times.
The letter said that a 30-day suspension was initially proposed for Cox, which was later reduced to a letter of reprimand. He also received a hit on his performance review, lost a bonus payment of $27,000 he was due, and saw his nomination for an award with a cash prize of $40,000 rescinded.
"The Air Force fully acknowledged the substantiated allegations of unprofessional conduct by Mr. Cox and its impact on the workforce and mission," the letter said. "The Air Force also acknowledged that Mr. Cox had a spotless performance and conduct record. … The Air Force believes it took appropriate action in formally reprimanding Mr. Cox."
The Air Force did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.