Investigators Find No Cover-up at Alaska National Guard

An Army Inspector General found no fault with how the Alaska National Guard handled reports of sexual assault and harassment.  At least, that’s how the Inspector General’s office for the Defense Department explained it in a letter to Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Murkowski says she asked for the investigation last year after hearing troubling reports from two Guard chaplains. She says she won’t comment until she gets a chance to see the IG report for herself.

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The one-page letter to Murkowski  says the Army Inspector General’s investigation ended last month. Its focus was whether the Alaska Guard allowed a management climate that wasn’t conducive to reporting sexual assaults, and whether officials tried to cover up any accusations.  The letter to Murkowski says the Army IG didn’t find evidence of a cover-up.  It also says Guard commanders didn’t identify any concerns about the reporting of sexual assaults during “climate sensing sessions” with the troops.

The letter confirms some of the broad outlines of the case. It says the Guard’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator received 11 allegations of sexual assault since 2012. They were forwarded to civilian police, but only two were substantiated, and none were prosecuted in court. The letter from the Pentagon IG seems to clear the top officer of the Alaska Guard, Thomas Katkus. It says he delivered administrative punishment on the only two cases he could, by discharging one of the accused from Guard service and initiating the departure of another. Another DoD oversight branch, the Directorate for Investigations of Senior Officials, reviewed the Army IG report and concurred, the letter says.

Major Candis Olmstead, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Guard, says nine alleged sexual assaults by Guardsmen have been reported to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator since 2009. She doesn’t know why the letter mentions 11 cases just since 2012. She says, though, the response coordinator takes reports from Guard victims regardless of whether the person they accuse was in or out of the Guard.

One more investigation into the Alaska National Guard is still underway. It’s by the Office of Complex Investigations, part of the National Guard Bureau.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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