Commandant testifies on USCG efforts to address sexual assault and harassment

Written by Nick Blenkey
Coast Guard Commandant Lina Fagan testifies on sexual assault and harrasment

Screenshot from C-Span

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Linda Fagan is not getting wholly rave reviews following her testimony at a hearing entitled “Coast Guard Oversight: Sexual Assault and Harassment,” held Tuesday before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC).

You can see video of part of the hearing below (the full hearing is available on C-Span)

A focus of the hearing was Operation Fouled Anchor (OFA), a sprawling, years-long criminal investigation into allegations the U.S.Coast Guard Academy had mishandled dozens of reports of rape and sexual assault at the instution from the late 1980s through 2006. The OFA sexual assault and harassment investigation concluded in January 2020, but was not disclosed to Congress or otherwise made public until June 2023 when CNN exposed the existence and coverup of OFA in a bombshell report that stunned Congress.

In September 2023, PSI opened a bipartisan inquiry into Operation Fouled Anchor. The subcommittee’s inquiry has focused on the Coast Guard’s original mishandling of these cases and the Coast Guard’s failure to reveal Operation Fouled Anchor, and its associated report, to Congress and the public.

You can read Admiral Fagan’s prepared testimony below:

She didn’t stray too far off-message in her appearance before the panel, but faced some tough questioning.

Two lawyers who are actively investigating all incidents of sexual assault and harrasment at the Coast Guard Academy, including those not investigated during OFA, were not impressed.

“We are speaking to Coast Guard Academy sexual assault survivors on a near daily basis. At today’s hearing, they were expecting answers and for the Coast Guard to take accountability,” said Christine Dunn, Partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP and co-chair of the firm’s Sexual Violence, Title IX and Victims’ Rights practice group. “Instead, the Commandant gave platitudes with no real substance or plan to give justice to survivors.”

Ryan Melogy of Maritime Legal Solutions PLLC added, “Congress’ questioning of Coast Guard Commandant Linda Fagan today should have been an important step in finally holding the Academy accountable for allowing a culture of sexual abuse to flourish – unfortunately, she avoided giving concrete answers or making a detailed commitment to change.”

Melogy and Dunn have worked together previously on numerous maritime sexual assault cases, including the Midshipman-X lawsuit involving a U.S. Merchant Marine Academy cadet.

  • Back in March, as we reported earlier, a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that while the U.S. Coast Guard has taken actions to address sexual assault and harassment (SASH) it has not developed a plan to assess its efforts.
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