WASHINGTON — Sexual misconduct within the Air Force’s ranks is a “cancer” that the service is committed to eradicating, the Air Force’s top officer said Wednesday at the first congressional hearing into a sex scandal at a training headquarters in Texas.
“I will never stop attacking this problem,” said Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee.
But underscoring the challenge that the Air Force faces, Welsh said the service recorded a disturbing number of reports of sexual assault last year. The preliminary figures show there were 796 reports of cases, ranging from inappropriate touching to rape, according to Welsh’s testimony.
The 2012 figure would be a nearly 30 percent increase from 2011, when 614 cases were reported. The number could be much greater, Welsh said, because many cases are never reported.
“Calling these numbers unacceptable does not do the victims justice,” Welsh said. “The truth is, these numbers are appalling.”