Air Force Academy Boss Highlights Growth in Report

Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson highlighted a proposed Air Force Academy visitor center and the school's efforts in cyberspace on Friday while downplaying the significance of a January report that showed a near doubling of sexual assaults at the school.

Johnson spoke to the school's Board of Visitors, a civilian oversight panel that holds quarterly meetings to review happenings at the academy. She worked to calm concerns from the board over sexual assaults in the wake of a January report that showed 49 cadets reported attacks in the prior academic year. The number jumped from the 25 reports in the 2013-14 academic year.

"I wasn't worried," said Johnson, who said the heightened number of reports shows cadets trust leaders to properly address sex crimes.

Johnson said the academy, which has had several high-profile sexual assault cases in the cadet wing in recent months, leads the nation in educating its students on preventing sex crimes.

"We're trying to get at this," she said.

Johnson, who has led the academy since 2014, said the school is trying to be a better neighbor. Chief in that effort, she said, is work to building a visitor center near North Gate Boulevard and Interstate 25.

The new center, to be built and operated by a private contractor, will be outside the academy's security fence, allowing tourists a glimpse of academy life without passing through guarded gates.

"It will be the gateway to the Pikes Peak region," Johnson said.

Another initiative at the school is to open up its long-mothballed planetarium for cadet and public use.

"We're trying to get more and more involved in the community," Johnson said.

The outreach efforts earned enthusiastic support from one board member, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.

"That's just so exciting," the Colorado Springs Republican said. "It's great for the community and the nation."

Johnson also outlined the academy's efforts to grow the Air Force Cyber Innovation Center on its campus. Now, the center has two workers, Johnson said. That's expected to grow rapidly, and the academy is mulling plans to build an addition to the campus to house the center.

Johnson said a key factor in the academy center will be how it bridges gaps between technicians and social scientists who are trying to understand new threats in cyberspace.

"We want this to be interdisciplinary," she said. "The law students and the social science students have a role to play in cyberspace."

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