Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Military Personnel Subcommittee, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Acting Inspector General (DOD-IG) Sean O’Donnell demanding an explanation for the delayed conclusion of an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct against former Navy Auditor General Ronnie J. Booth.
Booth — who was promoted to the job of the Navy’s top auditor by leaders who knew of the allegations him — resigned in disgrace last September after Congresswoman Speier wrote to DOD-IG about the matter, leading DOD-IG to initiate investigations into Booth’s alleged pattern of harassment, retaliation, and hostility in the workplace. More than a year later, Gillibrand and Speier are concerned that the length of the investigation demonstrates a lack of commitment to preventing and responding to sexual harassment and a failure to hold senior leaders accountable. The lawmakers are demanding an explanation for the delayed conclusion.
“When a senior Defense Department executive is accused of pervasive sexual harassment, accountability is not just important for the individual who perpetrated the harassment but also for the leadership who promoted such an individual and failed to detect and address the misconduct,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. “The survivors of this abuse have been waiting years for accountability and justice. The Inspector General must complete its investigation—now 15 months long—expeditiously.”
“While I’m encouraged by the DOD-IG’s investigation into the numerous disturbing complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct against Mr. Booth, I am deeply concerned that Congress and the public have yet to be informed of its findings,” said Senator Gillibrand, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “The fact that Booth was promoted despite these allegations has already eroded the public’s confidence in the Navy’s commitment to addressing sexual harassment, and it’s critical that a thorough investigation is swiftly completed. The brave whistleblowers and survivors who came forward to end Mr. Booth’s pattern of abuse deserve validation, protection, and closure. Congress must be informed of the timeline for the review’s completion and receive an explanation for its delay. I’m proud to work with Congresswoman Speier in the fight to end sexual harassment and assault in our armed services.”
Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Speier have been longtime leaders in the fight to end military sexual assault. Last July, Congresswoman Speier wrote to then-Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and DOD-IG raising numerous whistleblowers’ complaints alleging Mr. Booth had been promoted despite a “pattern of harassment, retaliation and hostility in the work place…documented at length in multiple sources” since 2007. DOD-IG subsequently began investigating Mr. Booth’s conduct and why Navy leaders promoted him despite likely being aware of these allegations, but DOD-IG has not released its findings nearly a year and a half later.