A U.S. Senate committee has brandished a $5 million stick at the Naval Academy to make sure it tries to end sexual harassment, teach ethics and continue its women's sports program.
A newly added provision in a defense appropriations bill would forbid the academy from spending $5 million in operations and maintenance funds until it reports to the armed services and appropriations committees on its progress toward meeting those three goals.
The appropriations committee approved the measure yesterday afternoon after its defense subcommittee drafted it earlier this week. The full Senate is expected to take up the bill within the next few days. The total amount requested for the academy is $115 million.
The $5 million stipulation reflects some lawmakers' doubts about whether the academy can clean its own house without outside oversight and prodding.
"It will put pressure on the Navy to address the problems that have arisen," one congressional source said. "I think there's been an erosion of confidence over the last year with all the things that have happened."
Members of the academy's governing board on Tuesday issued a stern report that says a breakdown in discipline is contributing to an environment ripe for sexual harassment, hazing and discrimination.
Its investigation centered on a December 1989 incident in which midshipman Gwen Dreyer was handcuffed to a urinal, taunted and photographed by male classmates. Dreyer, 19, resigned last spring, saying the academy failed to take her complaints of sexual harassment seriously. Other women and minorities came forward with stories of mistreatment at the academy.
The bill would give the academy until June 1 to report back on efforts to adopt the reforms recommended Tuesday, along with the suggestions of an as-yet uncompleted probe by the General Accounting Office.
Rear Adm. Virgil L. Hill Jr., the academy superintendent, says he has implemented most of the reforms unveiled this week.
The academy had no comment on the $5 million provision yesterday. "Until we see the actual language of the defense bill after it passes, we won't be able to comment on it," said Lt. Cmdr. Mike John, an academy spokesman.
The provision asks for a report on the school's efforts to teach ethics -- a congressional concern that began with the Iran-contra hearings and grew this year amid publicized problems with the school's honor system.
The academy also would have to promise that it would not reduce intercollegiate sports next year, according to the measure.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., an appropriations committee member, said she feared the academy might cut back its women's sports program, a spokesman said. Studies have shown that female athletes have a lower dropout rate at the academy than do non-athletes.
John, the academy spokesman, said the school is evaluating its sports programs and facilities but has no plans to make any cuts now.