Coast Guard Officials Have Refused to Testify in Race-Based Academy Discrimination Hearing

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In this July 2, 2018 file photo, members of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2022 pose for their class photo on day one of Swab Summer at the academy in New London, Conn.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP, File)
In this July 2, 2018 file photo, members of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2022 pose for their class photo on day one of Swab Summer at the academy in New London, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP, File)

The handling of race-based allegations at the Coast Guard Academy was supposed to be the subject of a congressional hearing this week.

The heads of the two committees planning to convene the July 16 hearing said the commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Karl Schultz, has refused to testify, a decision they criticized publicly in a statement last week and led them to call off the hearing.

"At a time when people across this country are coming together to confront systemic racism, it is deeply disappointing that the Coast Guard's Commandant, Admiral Karl Schultz, has rejected our invitation to testify publicly on race-based harassment at the Coast Guard Academy," said Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Carolyn Maloney of New York, chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Maloney and Thompson said Schultz, in his refusal, referenced "a baseless White House directive banning virtual testimony from administration witnesses."

"Under the Constitution, Congress -- not the Executive Branch -- determines how to hold congressional proceedings," they said, adding that Food and Drug Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, both testified before Congress virtually "without incident."

Lt. Cmdr. Brittany Panetta, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said in a statement Friday that the service is "eager" to testify "at a time and venue that aligns with established executive branch and committee procedures regarding hearing notice, quorum, and question-and-answer period."

The hearing follows a report released in June by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General that found the academy fell short in its response to allegations of race-based harassment involving cadets by not properly investigating some cases and not taking disciplinary action in others, even when when allegations were substantiated, among other deficiencies.

This is not the first time Congress has intervened. Late in 2019, the committees released a joint report following an 18-month investigation that found the Coast Guard failed to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations of harassment and bullying allegations and failed to hold officials accountable.

Thompson and Maloney also criticized Schultz then for failing to appear at a hearing convened on the report's findings. Instead, Vice Adm. Michael McAllister testified on behalf of the Coast Guard because the Coast Guard said at the time that his expertise and responsibilities were most relevant to the inquiry.

Lt. Cmdr. Panetta said the Coast Guard continues to take "decisive actions" to implement the recommendations in the congressional report and in the recent inspector general review.

"We are encouraged by the progress made by these actions throughout the service. However, we continue to seek out opportunities to foster an inclusive, respectful academy environment that produces a mission-ready workforce that reflects the public we serve," she said.

This article is written by Julia Bergman from The Day, New London, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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