Coast Guard Academy Adopts Policy on Revocation of Awards, Honors

The United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connd.
The United States Coast Guard Academy is seen, Sept. 14, 2020, in New London, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

NEW LONDON — A new policy adopted by the U.S. Coast Guard Academy addresses the revocation of honors and other recognition the academy has bestowed on individuals subsequently found to have committed serious misconduct or engaged in criminal activity.

Academy leaders began developing the policy more than a year ago in connection with "a historic financial misconduct case," Cmdr. Krystyn Pecora, the academy's external affairs officer, said Monday.

She declined to provide details of the case.

Pecora said cases related to "Operation Fouled Anchor," the academy's internal investigation of sexual assaults at the academy between the late 1980s and 2006, also were "involved in the thought process" that culminated in the new policy. Coast Guard officials' 2018 decision to keep secret a report of the investigation has come to light in the past year, leading to multiple ongoing congressional inquiries.

Operation Fouled Anchor uncovered dozens of suspects, some of whom were still on active duty in the Coast Guard.

Under the new policy, Pecora said, any person may notify academy leadership about derogatory information pertaining to past award recipients, including cadets, officers, faculty, staff and civilian personnel. At that point, the academy's legal office and the Coast Guard Investigative Service will seek records of criminal or administrative investigations that corroborate the information.

"If an allegation is brought forward that does not have any corroborating evidence, an investigation will be conducted prior to adjudication," Pecora said. "Investigation results could lead to additional actions beyond the scope of the award removal process."

A panel of senior academy leaders, including officers, faculty, staff and enlisted members, as well as the Superintendent's Equity Advisory Council will meet within the next few months to begin reviewing cases, according to Pecora. Award recipients will be notified of a decision to revoke their awards and will be given 30 days to appeal the decision.

Upon a final decision to revoke an award, any permanent recognition will be removed and destroyed. A replacement plaque, nameplate or similar recognition piece will be installed with the words "Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty" in place of the individual's name.

Pecora declined to say how many potential cases have been brought to the academy's attention.

"When the Academy recognizes one of our members, we work hard to ensure that this action reflects the values of this institution and our service. We must also ensure these awards and honors, that serve as a source of pride and inspiration, reflect the culture of this Academy to past, current, and future members," the academy's superintendent, Rear Adm. Michael Johnston, said in a statement announcing the new policy.

"It is important that we lead by example, and continuously improve our processes," Johnston said. "This new policy will help us accomplish that."

Retired Coast Guard Cmdr. Kimberly Young-McLear, who became a whistleblower when she reported being harassed and bullied while teaching at the academy nearly a decade ago, is skeptical about the new policy.

She noted the policy pertains to "honorary awards" rather than service records awards, "which are the ones that actually matter ... Symbolic vs. real awards."

"Why should Adm. Schultz have the highest award given by the Department of Homeland Security? And why is he tossing the pigskin at homecoming?" Young-McLear said, referring to retired Adm. Karl Schultz, an academy graduate who was commandant of the Coast Guard when it first covered up the Operation Fouled Anchor report.

Schutz visited the academy last October for homecoming.


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