WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, on Thursday highlighted the inclusion of $1.5 million in the FY24 Homeland Security Appropriations bill for an independent review of the U.S. Coast Guard’s efforts to address its history of sexual assault and harassment at the Coast Guard Academy and across the service. The review will deliver an impartial assessment of the Coast Guard’s track record and concrete recommendations for improving climate and culture, support for victims, and other measures to prevent further abuse. The bill also includes language to ensure Congress receives key information and regular briefings to ensure transparency and accountability regarding the Coast Guard’s decision to hide from Congress the findings of Operation Fouled Anchor, an internal investigation the Coast Guard conducted into allegations of pervasive sexual assault and abuse at the Academy between 1988 and 2006.

“It’s unacceptable that for years Academy leadership and senior Coast Guard officials chose to hide from Congress and the public the findings of Operation Fouled Anchor and other reports documenting issues of harassment and discrimination across the Coast Guard. The inclusion of this language in the Homeland Security appropriations bill is a key step in ensuring that those who breached the public’s trust and failed to protect the victims are held accountable. We have a responsibility to the institution of the Coast Guard Academy and the cadets to create a culture that fosters leadership, learning, and a sense of duty. While I appreciate efforts at reform by Commandant Fagan and the Academy’s new leadership, this language requiring fuller transparency and a forward-looking independent review is necessary to ensure a better future for all Coast Guard personnel,” said Murphy.

The relevant FY24 language is below:

  • Ending Sexual Assault and Harassment – Within 60 days of the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall charter an independent and impartial review of the Coast Guard's efforts to reduce and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment. The review shall be conducted by a non-Department of Homeland Security entity and shall evaluate past and present climate and culture, preventative measures, accountability, transparency, victim support, and awareness; identify and evaluate completed and ongoing efforts and reforms undertaken to improve these areas; and make recommendations for additional efforts and reforms that should be undertaken to close remaining gaps. The recommendations shall identify if and how they differ from those in the November 2023 Accountability and Transparency Review Team Report, as well as cost estimates and any statutory or administrative changes necessary for implementation. A report on the review and its recommendations shall be provided to the Committees within 210 days of the date of the charter. The Committees provide $1,500,000 above the request for the completion of the review and report.
  • Operation Fouled Anchor – In lieu of the reporting requirements under this heading in the Coast Guard section of the Senate report, OIG is directed to review, in accordance with the provisions of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.), the timeline of all approval correspondence regarding the "Operation Fouled Anchor" report. Within 90 days of the completion of the review, the Inspector General shall provide a report to the Committees on the results of the review, including a detailed accounting of if, when, and why the decision was made to withhold information regarding the investigation from Congress, the Coast Guard personnel involved in any such decision, and their respective roles in any such decision. Further, OIG shall, where appropriate and in accordance with the provisions of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.), investigate uninvestigated allegations of sexual assault and sexual violence within the Coast Guard from 1992 to the date of enactment of this Act, and review the results of previous investigations of sexual assault and sexual violence over the same time period to determine whether they were appropriately handled. The Inspector General shall provide quarterly briefings to the Committees on any such completed investigations of previously uninvestigated allegations and completed reviews of previous investigations. In preparing the information required to be released to Congress under this heading, the Inspector General shall not disclose personally identifiable information if disclosure is not otherwise lawful. In addition, the Inspector General shall protect the privacy of individuals with respect to the information required in the quarterly briefings, to include redacting all Personal Identifiable Information. Nothing under this heading shall require OIG to investigate a restricted sexual assault report.

In February, Murphy and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced bipartisan legislation to extend “safe-to-report” protections to cadets and midshipmen at the Coast Guard Academy, ensuring they are not punished for minor infractions of the Uniform Military Code of Justice when reporting incidents of sexual abuse.

Since Operation Fouled Anchor first came to light in June 2023, Murphy has held several meetings with Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Linda Fagan, to discuss her plans to address the culture of harassment and discrimination at the Academy. In December 2023, Murphy released a statement on the Coast Guard’s Accountability and Transparency Review (ATR) report.

Murphy has a long pushed the U.S. Coast Guard to deal with harassment and bullying at the Coast Guard Academy. In 2019, he criticized the Coast Guard for covering up allegations of harassment and for failing to appear before the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security and Oversight Committees investigating the allegations. That same year, following an OIG Whistleblower Retaliation Investigation and other reports of bullying, harassment and retaliation at the United States Coast Guard Academy, Murphy wrote a letter to the Coast Guard Commandant demanding reforms to the Academy’s climate of bullying, harassment and retaliation. In 2018, Murphy along with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (CT-02) wrote to Admiral Schultz seeking information on racial disparities at the Coast Guard Academy.