Lesko: House Democrats Again Ignore Due Process, Release Partisan Report

WASHINGTON – At a joint subcommittee hearing, Homeland Security Committee and Oversight and Reform Committee Democrats today released a report accusing senior Coast Guard Officials of discrimination and harassment despite multiple inquiries not substantiating such allegations. The accused were never made aware a report was forthcoming nor were they allowed to respond.

Transportation and Maritime Security Ranking Member Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) delivered the following statement at the hearing:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The hearing we are holding today is certain to cover important issues related to diversity and culture within the United States Coast Guard and, more specifically, the Coast Guard Academy.

We all recognize the need to ensure a positive and safe workplace within the Coast Guard. Bullying and retaliation are not acceptable in any workplace, and I want to acknowledge the findings by the Inspector General’s Office substantiating a single instance of retaliation. 

However, I would also like to acknowledge that the Coast Guard has been responsive to the Inspector General’s recommendations, including correcting the complainant’s Officer Evaluation Review; addressing training gaps for handling allegations and investigations of harassment and bullying; as well as clarifying the need for discretion in such investigations.

This is not a partisan issue, and I look forward to discussing some of the Coast Guard’s work in this space at today’s hearing. 

The majority has spent considerable time and expense on an investigation into a matter that was already investigated by the Inspector General and remediated by the Coast Guard.  Much of the one-sided report they’ve released today draws on recollections of staff, not actual transcripts. It fails to include input from several fact witnesses that were a party to the matter. 

Finally, many of the report’s recommendations have already been implemented by the Coast Guard. The rest may or may not be feasible, but we don’t know because the majority has not afforded the Coast Guard an opportunity to review the report or provide feedback, and the individuals named in the report were not given notice of their inclusion before the majority released their names today.

I am also disappointed the majority has sought to impugn the reputation of Admiral Schultz, a military service chief and distinguished four-star admiral with over 40 years of service to our nation.This is especially disappointing because the Coast Guard has continually offered to have Vice Admiral McAllister testify.

I am pleased to see Vice Admiral McAllister here today as the minority witness. As the Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, he is the most knowledgeable and appropriate witness to address the topic of today’s hearing.  Despite being offered as a witness to the majority multiple times, he is here today only because the minority invited him in an effort to get the Coast Guard’s perspective on the facts of this issue.

Over the last several years, the Coast Guard has taken steps to improve diversity and foster an inclusive workplace at the Academy where servicemembers, civilians, and cadets can conduct their mission free of harassment or discrimination. 

For instance, the Coast Guard Academy is the first service academy to partner with the Center for Urban Education at USC to address gender and race related gaps in student learning outcomes.  The Academy stood up a Center for Inclusive Learning and Teaching to enhance the learning environment for minority faculty and cadets.  It also created an Equity Assessment Report to track the impact of policy changes on cadet outcomes.

I raise these examples, and I know the Vice Admiral will speak to other examples, because I want the record to reflect the positive actions the Coast Guard has taken to enhance diversity and inclusiveness. There is always more that can and should be done on this issue, and I know the Coast Guard is committed to always improving.

Rather than dropping a one-sided report on our doorstep right before the hearing and refusing to entertain substantive input by the minority, why can’t we all work together to achieve our common objectives?  

In summary, we want to ensure that all people are treated fairly. No one should face harassment or bullying in the workplace, and I applaud the Coast Guard’s positive actions to enhance diversity and inclusiveness while also acknowledging more can always be done to improve.

It is also important to recognize the heroic and self-sacrificing actions taken by the Coast Guard and its leadership every day.

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