Air Force chief says sexual assaults are a 'cancer' to be stopped

Female members of the Air Force participate in morning drills in 2010. Female members of the Air Force participate in morning drills in 2010. United States Air Force

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Walsh said on Wednesday that sexual assault within the service is a “cancer” that must be excised, according to the Associated Press.

Speaking at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, Welsh said that the Air Force was “actively investigating” allegations of sexual assault, misconduct and unprofessional relationships by military training instructors toward trainees and technical training students.  Welsh said that preliminary numbers showed the Air Force had a record of 796 reported sexual assaults in fiscal 2012, up 30 percent from 614 reported cases in fiscal 2011.

The Defense Department as a whole reported 3,192 instances of sexual assault in fiscal 2011, and Welsh said that the actual number may be much higher after accounting for underreported cases and that the problem extended across the military.

“I want to emphasize today, just as [Air Force] Secretary [Michael] Donley did in August, that sexual assault and unprofessional relationships are unacceptable, they have no place in our culture, and their prevalence rips at the fabric of our great Air Force,” Welsh said in a statement.

The hearing was called to review the ongoing investigation surrounding cases of alleged sexual assault at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. In June, the service was shaken by a widening report of a number of sexual assaults at the base where vast majority of airmen -- more than 35,000 -- are trained each year.

In his testimony, Welsh said that the Air Force identified 59 “confirmed and alleged” victims at the base, and that all had been offered support from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program.  

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said that this wasn’t enough. "While I applaud the Air Force for pursuing in-depth investigations to find answers to these questions, I am particularly disturbed to learn that there was significant delay reporting the allegations to the proper authorities when they first came to light,” McKeon said in a statement.

Protect Our Defenders, a group advocating for increased measures to prevent military sexual assaults, said that Wednesday’s hearing was the beginning of a series of “fundamental reforms” to protect service members from sexual assault.

“The Lackland scandal must become more than another footnote in this tragic history,” retired Tech Sgt. Jennifer Norris said in a statement.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.