U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has held up Air Force Chief of Staff nominee Gen. Mark Welsh’s confirmation over concerns with the service’s handling of the sexual assault scandal at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
“My hold on General Welsh will remain until I feel the Air Force is adequately addressing the unacceptable situation at Lackland and taking corrective steps to reform their training program to prevent this from happening again,” Cornyn wrote in an e-mailed statement.
At least 31 women have come forward to report sexual assaults in a scandal that has rocked Lackland, home to Air Force basic training. The women have said in court that basic training instructors used their power over female recruits to sexually assault them. One instructor has already been convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
An Air Force two-star continues to lead an investigation to see how wide the scandal reached. So far, 35 instructors have been removed from their positions, with six already charged with sexual assault.
Welsh made it a point to show his disgust with the scandal during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He told the senators the service has failed in its efforts to curb the crime.
“What we have been doing is not working. It’s not for lack of effort,” he told Congress. “Everyone is trying to do the right thing and figure out some way of stopping this, but the fact is we haven’t. In fact, we haven’t even reversed the trend.”
Cornyn says he wants to see more done, especially in respect to the scandal at Lackland, which is located in his home state. A senator has the power to hold up a confirmation of a nominee.
This isn’t the first confirmation Cornyn has held up this year. He stepped in and has held up the confirmation for the Army’s top acquisition official, Heidi Shyu. He wants the Defense Department to put pressure on a Russian weapons company to stop selling military equipment to Syria before voting to confirm Shyu.
Cornyn is joined by U.S. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in blocking Shyu’s confirmation.