House Dems seek answers on Air Force sex abuse scandal

California Democrats Reps. Susan Davis, Loretta Sanchez and Jackie Speier will meet with service leaders at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas on Tuesday, to follow-up on recent DOD efforts to address cases of sexual abuse at the Air Force training center. 

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Specifically, the lawmakers will meet with "base leadership, military legal advocates, special investigators, training instructors and trainees to gauge the impact that the investigations and prosecutions are having on base personnel and trainees," according to a committee statement. 

"The [congressional] delegation will also seek to determine what Lackland leadership is doing to address sexual misconduct cases moving forward," according to the statement. 

The visit comes shortly after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta instituted new department-wide guidelines geared toward cracking down on cases of sexual abuse of Air Force trainees by service instructors. 

The guidelines include a department-wide review of basic training procedures and policies, including the selection, training and oversight of instructors.

Part of those guidelines also include possibly implementing all-female drill instructors at the base, to handle training of women cadets, DOD press secretary George Little told reporters last Tuesday. 

The new review of basic training will “consider the potential benefits of increasing the number of female instructors conducting military training,” he said.

Panetta also instructed the services to ramp up standards for sexual assault prevention and response training.

Panetta's new guidance outlined last Tuesday, which builds upon the DOD mandates issued in April, were created in part to resolve the ongoing issues at Lackland, Little said at the time. 

“I think that the revelations at Lackland certainly contributed to his thinking on these announcements, but he's been concerned about this issue for some time,” he said.

So far, the scandal at Lackland has seen 17 trainers investigated for sexual assault or inappropriate relationships with as many as 42 female trainees. One instructor was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and the commander of basic training at the base was dismissed.

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