Press Releases

Webster and Carbajal Introduce Coast Guard Protection and Accountability Act of 2024 Following the Service’s Mishandling of Sexual Assault Review

Washington, D.C., March 5, 2024 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
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Washington, DC – Today, Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Webster (R-FL) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Salud Carbajal (D-CA) introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen protections for members of the United States Coast Guard from sexual assault and harassment and to ensure accountability and transparency in the Coast Guard following the Committee’s investigation of the Service’s Operation Fouled Anchor (OFA). Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA) joined as original co-sponsors of the legislation.

Initiated in 2014, Operation Fouled Anchor reviewed how the Coast Guard handled allegations of rape, assault, and other misconduct at the Coast Guard Academy between 1990 and 2006. The Coast Guard’s review revealed that cases of sexual assault and misconduct were handled much differently than they would be today, and as a result, perpetrators were not held properly accountable, and victims did not receive the protections they deserved. Prior to the OFA review, the Coast Guard had worked extensively with Congress for more than a decade on oversight and legislation addressing sexual assaults and sexual harassment on cruise ships carrying passengers from U.S. ports and on U.S.-flag commercial vessels. However, despite that previous work, the Coast Guard chose to not share the existence or results of OFA with Congress until June 2023, after it was leaked to the media.

On August 28, 2023, Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) and Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA) sent a letter to Admiral Linda Fagan, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, requesting all documents relating to Operation Fouled Anchor, as part of the Committee’s investigation into the Coast Guard’s handling of sexual misconduct.

Through the course of its investigation, the Committee reviewed thousands of documents produced by the Coast Guard.  Ultimately the investigation revealed that historically, the Coast Guard handled allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment inconsistently and often ineffectively. In addition, their past processes lacked sufficient transparency and focus on prevention and failed to adequately support victims.

Prior to the Committee launching its investigation, Admiral Fagan ordered a 90-day Accountability and Transparency Review, which included an examination of current laws, policies, practices, and culture designed to prevent and respond to instances of sexual assault and harassment within the Service. Findings from the review were released on November 27, 2023, and included recommendations such as increasing the focus on prevention and intervention, skills-based training and leadership development, effective use of survey information, and meeting the obligation to care for victims. Following the Accountability and Transparency Review, Admiral Fagan directed over 30 actions to implement recommendations from the review.

To ensure the Coast Guard is enacting recommendations from the review, abiding by increased standards of accountability and transparency, and better protecting Service members, the leaders of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced the Coast Guard Protection and Accountability Act.

The legislation requires the Coast Guard to provide an annual report to Congress for each of the next three years outlining the Service’s implementation of efforts outlined in the Accountability and Transparency Review.

“The Coast Guard’s decision not to release the findings of the Operation Fouled Anchor Report is deeply troubling.  The Coast Guard leadership at that time was imposing higher levels of scrutiny over sexual assault and harassment in the maritime industry, which they regulate, while simultaneously failing to consistently and transparently address sexual misconduct within the Service.  The men and women serving in our Coast Guard, whom we ask so much of, deserve better from their leadership,” said Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Webster (R-FL). “I am pleased that the current Commandant has publicly issued Directed Actions along with the release of her Accountability and Transparency Report.  I hope these Actions will strengthen protections for victims and uphold the Service’s core values: Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty. The Coast Guard Protection and Accountability Act will make sure those actions are carried out and provide the Coast Guard with the authorities needed to implement much needed change.”

“We count on the men and women of our Coast Guard to carry out the critical missions that keep our seas and shores safe. In return, we must ensure our Coasties can count on us to foster a safe and responsive culture within their ranks. We have worked in a bipartisan way within our committee to improve the Coast Guard’s response to sexual assault and sexual harassment, but it is clear there is more work that remains to be done – and this legislation will hold the Coast Guard accountable to both Congress and the American people for the improvements they have pledged to make in order to increase prevention, reduce stigma, improve training and support for survivors, and deliver the cohesion and safety our Coasties deserve,” said Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Salud Carbajal (D-CA).

“I want to thank Congressmen Webster and Carbajal for introducing this important legislation. While the Coast Guard and Admiral Fagan have taken meaningful steps to correct the Coast Guard’s policies and culture concerning sexual misconduct, this committee and Congress have a responsibility to ensure that all Coast Guard servicemembers and cadets have the protections they need and deserve, and that the Coast Guard follows through on the recommendations prescribed in the Accountability and Transparency Review. I believe this bill holds the Coast Guard accountable for implementing the Commandant’s directed actions and ensures that real and meaningful change happens within the Coast Guard,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO).

“We ask so much of our brave Coasties, Congress must do whatever we can to ensure they have a workplace that is free from sexual assault and harassment. The Coast Guard Protection and Accountability Act will fight sexual violence in the Service by holding the Coast Guard accountable for its sexual assault and harassment mitigation and prevention efforts, and by supporting survivors when these heinous crimes do occur. I am grateful to Chairman Sam Graves, Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Webster, Ranking Member Carbajal, and Rep. Courtney for their leadership in introducing this important legislation,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA).

The Coast Guard Protection and Accountability Act, establishes a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the implementation efforts of the Commandant’s directed actions, effectiveness of those efforts, and any additional measures the Coast Guard should implement. The bill also requires the Coast Guard to maintain deliberative documents related to prosecution decisions for at least seven years. Furthermore, the legislation provides additional authorities to the Coast Guard to implement needed changes within the Service and provides parity with other military services.

Click here to read the bill text. Click here for a section by section summary of the bill.

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