Advocates fighting against military sexual assault bristled at a secret Sunday visit by GOP Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
The Hill newspaper reported late Sunday that McKeon made his surprise three-hour Lackland visit to talk with officers, enlisted airman and some 30 recruits. McKeon apparently came away from the encounter convinced that the Lackland sex scandal is the result of a few bad apples, and that Air Force officials have taken adequate steps to combat the problem.
“Just because a few people go beyond the bounds of propriety and misuse the authority they've been given – a very important authority – that does not mean they can't clean up the problem,” he told the Hill. “They're working on it and I'm convinced going to do a great job of it.”
McKeon has been inundated with calls from advocates to open up a congressional inquiry into the widening scandal at Lackland. So far more than 15,000 people have signed a petition asking him to call for open congressional hearings on sexual abuse at Lackland and the rest of the military.
McKeon's assessment following his visit rings hollow with advocates who say the widening scandal deamands a congressional investigation. So far 17 basic training instructors are now under investigation for sexual misconduct, and 43 victims, all female trainees, have been identified. On Monday the Express-News reported another Lackland trainer pleaded guilty to sexual encounters with two female trainees.
Nancy Parrish, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, released a prepared statement Monday that read in part:
“The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon’s comments about the criminal sexual abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force Base are disheartening. His statements that only a ‘few people’ are responsible at Lackland minimizes the criminal scandal. And his reasons for not opening a hearing and investigation about Lackland, because he received ‘assurances’ from top military commanders that they will do all they can so it doesn’t happen again, does not cut it.”
For more background on the scandal at Lackland, see "Lackland's instructor-on-rainbow sex crimes, told by one who lived the nightmare."