AF chief promises wider investigation

Actions of past leaders of academy up for review


WASHINGTON - Prompted by scathing rebukes at a Senate hearing Monday, Air Force Secretary James G. Roche yesterday promised to "look deeper" into the actions of top officials at the Air Force Academy, announcing criteria by which the academy's leaders could be punished for failing to address the difficulties women cadets face in reporting sexual assaults.

Appearing before a subcommittee of the House Armed Service Committee, Roche and Gen. John P. Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, acknowledged the displeasure they had weathered in hearings the previous afternoon.

At that time, they had hesitated to openly criticize the outgoing leaders of the academy, saying they inherited a culture that denigrated women cadets and were no more responsible for the climate than any of the academy's earlier leaders.

With the war raging in Iraq, it was not the Air Force's performance on the battlefield, but here at home, that appeared to consume the secretary and his chief of staff, with the announcement of yet another investigation into the troubled academy.

There are three investigations under way, and yesterday a fourth - still undefined - body joined the fray.

The new group, whose members have not been announced, will work under the aegis of the academy's Board of Visitors, comparable to a board of regents. It will be the only group looking into the scandal that is not formally affiliated with the Department of Defense.

In addition, an assistant district attorney in El Paso County, site of the Colorado Springs, Colo., academy, announced an investigation into one case of alleged sexual assault in which a cadet at the academy said she was unsatisfied with the academy's investigation.

In unveiling the criteria they had developed, Roche raised the possibility that earlier administrations at the academy could also be held responsible for failing to address the hostility toward women cadets.

He vowed that if Defense Department investigations show that "credible information came to their attention that they should have acted upon, or that they failed to follow due process, they will be held accountable."

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