Oversight and Homeland Security Committees Release Staff Report Finding Coast Guard Leadership Failed to Address Harassment, Bullying, and Retaliation

Dec 11, 2019
Press Release

Washington D.C. (Dec. 11, 2019)—Today, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, released a joint staff report finding that the Coast Guard mishandled complaints of harassment and bullying and failed to hold those in leadership accountable for their actions.

The investigation was initiated 18 months ago by then-Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings and then-Ranking Member Thompson, in consultation with Representative Joe Courtney, to examine the handling of complaints of harassment and retaliation in the Coast Guard, including at the Coast Guard Academy, and the Academy’s responses to disparities identified in the Equity Scorecard review.

The Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security will hold a joint subcommittee hearing today to discuss the findings of this report.

“I applaud our late Chairman for his extraordinary leadership on this issue, and we will continue this work to ensure whistleblowers are protected when alleging misconduct in the workplace,” Chairwoman Maloney said.  “This report shows that the Coast Guard repeatedly swept allegations of bullying and harassment under the rug, and did not hold senior officials accountable for their actions. The Coast Guard should fully adopt the recommendations in this report to prevent these abuses from happening in the future. No employee should ever feel unsafe at work or worry about retaliation for sounding the alarm on misconduct.”

“Our investigation has made clear that the Coast Guard must make major changes to address its climate and cultural challenges and ensure the accountability of its leadership,” Chairman Thompson said.  “The Coast Guard must take care of its own people or it will not be able to execute its critical mission to protect our homeland.  These systemic issues should not only alarm the leadership at the Coast Guard Academy—but also Coast Guard headquarters. Coast Guard leadership must address these serious matters now. I appreciate the work of my colleagues, and especially the leadership of the late Chairman Cummings, on this necessary investigation.”

“Chairman Cummings was passionately devoted to increasing the participation of people of color and women in the Coast Guard Academy,” Oversight Civil Rights and Civil Liberties  Subcommittee Chairman Raskin said.  “The Coast Guard’s failure to take workplace harassment seriously weakens our armed forces and threatens the progress we have made to diversify the ranks.”

“I have great respect for the Coast Guard and its mission. Sadly, persistent problems with the Coast Guard’s processes for investigating allegations of harassment, bullying, and retaliation threaten to undermine that mission,” Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee Chairman Correa said.  “The failure of the Coast Guard to address confirmed retaliation against its men and women serving our nation is inexcusable. It is unfortunate that it took Inspector General investigations for the Coast Guard to take action, and it’s clear continued oversight will be necessary to ensure the Coast Guard actually carries out much-needed reforms. My colleagues and I are here to assist in addressing these issues, so the Coast Guard can get back to their core mission of protecting and securing our nation.”

Based on the review of thousands of pages of documents and information obtained through interviews with Coast Guard personnel, as well as a staff visit to the Coast Guard Academy, the investigation found the Coast Guard military leadership has failed to:

  • Conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations of allegations of harassment and bullying; 
  • Hold officials accountable for deficient and incomplete investigations; and
  • Take corrective action to address retaliation against individuals who report harassment and bullying. 

This report sets forth seven recommendations, which, if implemented, will help ensure prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations and resolution of allegations.  These recommendations focus on improving investigative processes at the Academy and throughout the Coast Guard.  Implementing these recommendations must be one component of the Coast Guard’s broader, ongoing efforts to build a more equitable service that fully reflects the values and diversity of the American people.

Click here to read today’s report.

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116th Congress