Sen. Murkowski decries sexual misconduct in Alaska National Guard


Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday cited sexual misconduct problems in the Alaska National Guard for her support of a proposal to take decisions on prosecuting sex crimes away from military commanders.

“The recent experiences that I have had as a senator from Alaska with the transparency of decisions made within the chain of command, I believe, leave much to be desired,” the Republican said in a speech on the floor of the Senate.

Murkowski said she is learning of problems from the news media, rather than from commanders. She cited a McClatchy Newspapers story from last month in which senior chaplains in the Alaska National Guard alleged that a sexual assault and harassment problem has festered for years without adequate response.

The newspaper report also described how the Alaska guard is investigating recruiters accused of rape.

Murkowski said that, following the story, she asked senior leaders of the Washington, D.C.,- based National Guard Bureau what they knew about the allegations.

“You know what the answer was?” Murkowski said. “They read it about it in the news clippings.”

Murkowski said there’s a “broken link in the chain” if senior leaders are unaware of such serious allegations. She said they can’t act if the facts are buried.

She also cited media reports of sexual affairs at the Army National Guard’s 49th Missile Defense Battalion at Fort Greely in Alaska. The commander of the battalion ended up being suspended for the misconduct.

Murkowski said there are suggestions of other problems as well. She said a guardsman at Fort Greely alleged he was unlawfully detained for days in an electrical closet on the base when his chain of command intervened in a child custody dispute that he was having with another member of the Guard. Murkowski said she asked for an investigation, but that the military is refusing to tell her the result of the probe.

“Are we supposed to call this military justice?” she said.

Murkowski also said on the Senate floor that an Alaskan whom she nominated for a military service academy was sexually assaulted at the academy, and that she spoke with a woman who alleged she was repeatedly drugged, raped and then dumped in the Bering Sea by superior officers when she was serving in the Navy 20 years ago at the remote post of Adak.

Murkowski’s comments came as the Senate debated an amendment by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to remove sexual assault and other serious crimes from the normal military chain of command, called the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ. Gillibrand’s proposal would turn court-martial decisions on such crimes over to a cadre of legal professionals.

The proposal is opposed by military officials, with their sentiment expressed by the three service associations representing former members of the Air Force, Army and Navy.

“The key to stopping sexual assault in the military is holding commanders at all levels accountable for their command climate,” wrote retired Air Force Lt. Gen. George K. Muellner, chairman of the board of the Air Force Association. “Stripping away UCMJ authority from commanders would deprive them of the necessary leadership role that accountability demands of leaders.”

The Senate did not vote on the proposal Wednesday.

Michael Doyle of the Washington Bureau contributed.

Email:; Twitter: @seancockerham

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • 5 things to watch in final 2 months of election

    The final two months of campaigning in Michigan will determine if Republicans continue their four-year control of state government and who will succeed U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, a retiring Democrat who has held his seat for nearly 36 years.

FILE - In this April 3, 2014 file photo, Democratic candidate for governor Mark Schauer speaks during a news conference in Grand Rapids, Mich. Political TV ads are set to escalate in the final two months of the race between Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Schauer, as the campaigns and their deep-pocketed outside allies sharply focus their message to voters.

    Airwaves heat up in race for Michigan governor

    Political TV ads are set to escalate in the final two months of the race between Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Democrat Mark Schauer, as the campaigns and their deep-pocketed outside allies sharply focus their message to voters.

This March 23, 2008 photo provided by the Hennepin County, Minn. Sheriff's Office shows Douglas McAuthur McCain. The Obama administration has offered a wide range of assessments of the threat to U.S. national security posed by Islamic State extremists in an area straddling eastern Syrian and northern and western Iraq, and whose actions include last week’s beheading of American journalist James Foley. Some officials say the group is more dangerous than al-Qaida. Yet intelligence assessments say it currently couldn’t pull off a complex, 9-11-style attack on the U.S. or Europe.

    Intelligence nightmare: Extremists returning home

    The case of Mehdi Nemmouche haunts U.S. intelligence officials.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category