At Coast Guard Hearing, Sen. Cruz Addresses Coast Guard’s Unacceptable Response to Sexual Assault Reports, Importance of Branch’s Role In Protecting Our Nation

July 13, 2023

Highlights Past Bipartisan Efforts to Address Sexual Assault in the Military 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At today’s Senate Commerce Committee subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Coast Guard, Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) expressed his deep concerns about disturbing reports of past sexual assaults at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and highlighted his bipartisan work to address sexual assault in the military. Sen. Cruz also acknowledged the important work that members of the Coast Guard carry out in service of our nation, especially in Texas. 

Below are Sen. Cruz’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Chairwoman Baldwin and Ranking Member Sullivan, thank you for holding today’s hearing on the Coast Guard.? 

“Admiral Fagan and Master Chief Jones, your leadership is critically important today, as the Coast Guard grapples with its inaction and failure of transparency regarding past sexual assaults at the Coast Guard Academy. By not taking appropriate action to address past sexual misconduct at the Coast Guard Academy, the Coast Guard failed to protect its most valuable asset: its people. 

“Cadets entering the Coast Guard Academy commit to making great sacrifices “in the service of their country and humanity.” And yet, when the worst happened to them, the Coast Guard did not return that commitment. 

“A recent investigation of sexual assaults at the Coast Guard Academy found that many sexual assaults at the Academy were not taken seriously, and that the perpetrators of these crimes were dealt with administratively rather than criminally. More than 60 potential victims were identified by these investigations. The Coast Guard’s insufficient action, or outright inaction, has caused further trauma for these victims and has blunted proper accountability for those responsible for these crimes. 

“Finally, the Coast Guard kept these investigations from Congress for years, which may have delayed needed legislative action. We need to make improvements to ensure that this failure to notify Congress does not happen again, and you can be sure that this Committee will be conducting rigorous oversight to ensure these improvements are made.

“We owe our brave Coast Guard men and women a workplace free from sexual assault and harassment, so that they can focus on their critical work of saving lives, intercepting drugs, and defending our maritime border, which is more important than ever. 

“I’ve worked on a bipartisan basis for years with Senator Gillibrand to protect members of the military from sexual assault. We fought to enact into law the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, which professionalized and improved how the military prosecutes sexual assault and other serious crimes. 

“We also teamed up to enact into law the CADET Act, which ended unfair, antiquated, and unacceptable policies that forced female students in America’s military academies, including the Coast Guard Academy, to either permanently withdraw from those academies or give up their children if they become pregnant.

“It is imperative that we work to ensure the dignity, well-being, and safety of our military members, including the cadets that will one day form our officer corps. 

“In Texas, Coast Guard members are on patrol 365 days a year. From Station South Padre Island to Sector Houston-Galveston and beyond, Coast Guard members stand the watch to keep our citizens and our country safe. Earlier this year, I introduced a resolution commending the Coast Guard for its outstanding work in safeguarding the American people through the promotion of national security and maritime border security. It highlighted that during fiscal year 2022 the Coast Guard interdicted over 400,000 pounds of narcotics and over 12,000 illegal aliens, while also conducting over 6,000 at-sea boardings of fishing vessels and stopping 87 foreign fishing incursions. 

“In addition, the Coast Guard ensures economic security through rigorous vessel inspections and by keeping commerce moving in and over our waterways. At a time when our allies need clean, U.S. energy abroad the most, I hope that Admiral Fagan can commit today that the Coast Guard will work expeditiously with the Maritime Administration to complete processing deepwater ports license applications.

“The Coast Guard also plays an important role in setting schedules for drawbridges. In doing so, it must balance all the public interests of mariners, drivers, and railroaders to keep people and goods moving in all modes of transportation without compromising safety. The Coast Guard must work with all stakeholders in advance of changes and not impose a schedule that is impractical, even on a temporary basis. 

“For example, a recent schedule change on a drawbridge on a rail corridor along the east coast of Florida threatens stoppages that would cause freight rail services to block nearby grade crossings and severely restrict the operations of passenger rail services. I understand a proposal has been offered by the railroads that would provide mariners with access to the waterway for 60 percent of daylight hours. The Coast Guard needs to promptly adopt a workable schedule to give certainty to the mariners, the railroads, and their customers.

“I look forward to working with Admiral Fagan and Master Chief Jones to ensure that the Coast Guard continues to safeguard our national security, our economy, and our way of life.”