Sex abuse scandal prompts Air Force Academy changes

New superintendent tapped

officials resist independent review idea

March 27, 2003|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Top military officials yesterday named a new slate of leaders for the Air Force Academy and announced other measures in response to a sexual assault scandal that has shaken the elite officer training school.

But Air Force Secretary James G. Roche and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper continued to resist calls from critics for an independent review panel to help the academy reform. They also declined to blame the outgoing leaders of the academy for problems that they said go back years.

"We still believe this is one of the finest institutions in the world," Roche told reporters at the Pentagon. "It stumbled, and now it's got to get fixed."

The Air Force has documented at least 56 allegations of sexual assaults or harassment at the academy over the past decade, officials said, 16 of them under the current leadership. Many current and former female cadets say the military turned a deaf ear to their pleas for help and in some instances punished victims instead of assailants.

Jumper and Roche pledged to reform the academy to prevent such abuse.

"We have to change that climate," Jumper said.

After the sexual assault scandal began to emerge in January, Jumper and Roche said they moved swiftly to build a new culture of safety and respect among cadets entering the academy in June - including 218 women.

To that end, they said, Maj. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr. would be named the new superintendent of the 4,200-cadet academy effective in June, pending a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. The current superintendent, Lt. Gen. John R. Dallager, had been previously scheduled to retire at that time after three years in the post.

Rosa is deputy director for current operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A 1973 graduate of the South Carolina military school The Citadel, Rosa is a former commandant of the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

Jumper, who is the top military officer in the Air Force, praised Rosa as "a man of impeccable character and leadership qualities" who has "worked with females throughout his military career and obviously very successfully."

The announcements came a day after Air Force officials told lawmakers of the impending shake-up at the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In addition to Dallager's previously planned departure, officials said, Brig. Gen. S. Taco Gilbert III, the academy's commandant of cadets, would be reassigned to a post in the Pentagon under the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs.

Two others in the academy leadership are also to be reassigned.

The Air Force officials praised the outgoing leaders, despite widespread criticism of the academy's handling of the assault allegations.

The Air Force also announced a series of steps meant to help stamp out rape, sexual assault and intimidation of female cadets.

For instance, incoming classes will be given enhanced training on "sexual assault prevention and overall behavior expected of cadets."

Female cadets will be clustered near each other in dormitories. No cadet will be allowed to enter the room of a cadet of the opposite sex without knocking on the door and waiting for it to be opened.

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