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Coast Guard admiral criticized ahead of hearing on harassment, bullying complaints at academy

United States Coast Guard Academy (USCG Public Affairs/WikiCommons)
December 12, 2019

The heads of the two congressional committees holding a joint hearing Wednesday on the Coast Guard’s handling of harassment and bullying complaints are criticizing the head of the service for refusing to testify.

U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, the Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, the Democratic chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, wrote to Admiral Karl L. Schultz saying his refusal to testify “continues a troubling trend of impediments to congressional oversight” and “only reinforces our concerns that Coast Guard leadership does not fully appreciate the gravity of what has occurred, and likely continues to occur, within the service.”

Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a spokesman for the service, said the Coast Guard “welcomes the opportunity to testify on its focus and progress in pursuit of the most diverse, inclusive, and effective Coast Guard.”

“This is one of the service’s top strategic priorities as demonstrated by the investment and focus toward workplace climate and retention issues for our female and under-represented minority shipmates,” McBride said.

Vice Admiral Michael McAllister will testify on behalf of the Coast Guard because “his areas of expertise and assigned responsibilities are most relevant to the inquiry, and he is best-suited to represent the Coast Guard at this hearing,” McBride said.

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He also defended Schultz, saying “Since assuming the duties of Commandant on June 1, 2018, Admiral Schultz has been committed to broadening diversity and building a Coast Guard representative of the American public we serve.”

“The Service looks forward to constructive recommendations from the Committee for improving our processes as they relate to harassment, hate, hazing, and bullying,” McBride wrote in the statement. “The Coast Guard will continue to collaborate with Congress to ensure a fully inclusive military Service where all people are respected, empowered, and valued.”

The hearing follows an 18-month investigation by the committees, in consultation with the office of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, to examine the handling of complaints of harassment and retaliation at the Coast Guard Academy and the academy’s responses to disparities identified in a report called the Equity Scorecard, which looked at educational outcomes based on race and ethnicity. The findings of the investigation will be released Wednesday.

Thompson and Maloney said in their letter to Schultz indicated that Coast Guard officials did not cooperate with the investigation.

“After stonewalling requests for nearly a year, the Coast Guard produced documents that remain heavily, inconsistently, and improperly redacted. The Coast Guard made officials available for transcribed interviews and other discussions only after our committees indicated we would consider alternative means to obtain compliance,” they said.

They also referenced a 2018 report from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general, which found that the academy retaliated against a black, female professor who reported bullying by her supervisors. Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Young-McLear is among those expected to testify Wednesday.

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. and is being led by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Democratic chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Rep. Lou Correa of California, Democratic chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security. It will be broadcast live at bit.ly/OversightCYT.

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© 2019 The Day