The Arizona National Guard’s top officer has unveiled more than a dozen reforms as the organization wades through sexual abuse, drug trafficking and abuse of power allegations.
Gov. Jan Brewer asked for an investigation by the National Guard Bureau after The Arizona Republic published a series of stories exposing years of misconduct by Arizona military personnel and raising questions about the Guard’s leadership and culture. Allegations of wrongdoing included sexual abuses, drunken driving, narcotics trafficking, embezzlement, retaliation against whistle-blowers and abuses of power.
Brewer asked Maj. Gen. Hugo Salazar to submit a remediation plan after bureau investigators released a 107-page report that said Arizona’s Guard suffered from unethical leadership, lax discipline, rogue conduct and a failure to protect abuse victims.
Salazar outlined the reforms and training protocols Friday in a letter to the governor, the Republic reports. Salazar described the initiatives as “catalysts for broad, systemic program change.”
The Guard remains “prepared, equipped, manned and ready to respond to local, state or federal missions” but is making changes “to remedy the (problem) areas identified in the NGB report,” Salazar wrote.
A key priority will be addressing issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault, he said.
While there are about 8,000 personnel between the Arizona Army and Air Guard, wrongdoing prevailed among the 1,400 soldiers and airmen who work full time. The rest serve one weekend per month.
Some new programs and procedures already have been implemented, including mandatory reporting of alleged misconduct by leadership personnel and revisions of the Arizona Code of Military Justice and court-martial policies to enable appropriate disciplinary actions.
The Guard will also be conducting regular personnel surveys on integrity, leadership and morale issues, developing a tracking system for investigations of misconduct and providing enhanced training and response to sexual harassment and abuse.
The plan also calls for the creation of a provost marshal to coordinate with civilian law enforcement.
Brewer did not immediately comment on the action plan.
The governor said previously that she would rely on Salazar’s “steady hand and wise counsel” to address shortcomings identified by the National Guard Bureau’s report. Salazar plans to retire as adjutant general later this year.
Through its investigation, the bureau found that misconduct by command officers, especially sexual fraternization, sabotaged respect and discipline. They said that serious wrongdoing went unpunished and that those who complained of abuse were “victimized twice: once by the perpetrator and once by the leadership that was unable to address their needs.”
On Friday, Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, renewed her call for public hearings in the Arizona Legislature and said the action plan fails to address overarching command-ethics issues.
She also complained that that plan lacks a system where Guard personnel can file complaints directly with the Governor’s Office for independent review.
“I think the fundamental problem in the Guard is the lack of leadership at the top,” McCune Davis said. “Who actually will implement this plan, and do they have a reputation for ethical behavior as an example? … The governor has to be vigilant in selecting somebody with the highest standards.” AP