A former top Navy official took personal trips — including 2 vacations to Hawaii — on the taxpayers' dime

news
Jill Loftus, director of Department of the Navy (DON) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), speaks to guests at the 2017 DON SAPR Training Seminar. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Lopez)

The former director of the Navy's sexual assault and prevention office wasted government resources for years by taking official trips primarily for personal reasons, including what amounted to two family vacations in Hawaii, the Defense Department's Inspector General said in a recent report.


This is the second time Jill Vines Loftus has been chided by the Inspector General following a 2016 investigation that found she was wrongfully reimbursed more than $7,000 for travel after repeatedly violating government policies. The new report also concluded Loftus failed to treat her staff with respect and belittled a female officer's appearance.

In her job, Loftus would travel the world visiting sailors and Marines to review matters concerning sexual assault, prevention and response. She served as the Navy secretary's principal point of accountability for all sexual-assault policy matters and as the primary resource for expert sexual-assault prevention and response assessment, program support and oversight, according to a Navy biography.

Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus created the post in 2009, and Loftus was the first to hold it. She retired on Labor Day in September, weeks after investigators unsuccessfully attempted to interview her about her travel.

The inspector general concluded in a report released in late March that Loftus conducted little or no work during official travel to New Orleans, New York, Japan, Key West, Fla., Spain and Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where she grew up. On that trip, a Facebook photo showed her apple picking.

"Witnesses could not account for Ms. Loftus' activities for much of the duty day and Ms. Loftus did not share information about many of her activities with her staff," the report says. "Additionally, witnesses told us that Ms. Loftus went sightseeing during the duty day, skipped meetings she was scheduled to attend and sent her staff instead, and accrued an unreasonable amount of mileage on her rental vehicles."

Investigators found she started planning both of her Hawaii trips months ahead of finding an official justification for going. After she booked VIP lodging for herself and her family, she asked the Hawaii Sexual Assault and Prevention and Response Office to create official business for her, the report said. Staff members told investigators Loftus could have done many of the same meetings by phone.

In a response to the broad travel abuse allegations, Loftus wrote that investigators "neglected" to include after-hours work she conducted by email and other work outside normal hours.

She wrote that she had "spent many hours talking" with military personnel and their families, as well as people in the communities such as bar owners in Key West about sexual assault and domestic violence issues. She also said she checked the various commands to make sure they were advertising sexual assault hotlines and contact information for victim advocates.

"AT EVERY SITE, ON EVERY TRIP YOU CITE, I PERFORMED MISSION ESSENTIAL BUSINESS NOT 'VACATION TIME,'" she wrote in all uppercase.

Investigators were not swayed, saying those duties are more appropriate for local sexual assault and prevention officers than the national director. And although she may have conducted oversight, that's not the reason for the trips she gave in her vouchers. Her stated justification was that she needed to attend "in-person training on SAPR" or "face-to-face meetings."

For some trips, witnesses said there was no need for her to travel and the intent of her visits wasn't clear. During a trip to New York, a public affairs officer gave her a tour of Central Park and the Sept. 11 Memorial during a work day. The trip was otherwise supposed to be about meeting with National Football League representatives for education and training.

The investigation also found that Loftus didn't treat her staff with respect. In one case, Loftus repeatedly belittled an officer about her makeup, hair and appearance. The investigation found Loftus also repeatedly referred to her staff as incompetent and fostered a poor work environment.

Loftus countered by saying she had called her staff "incapable" instead of "incompetent."

"They were incapable of taking initiative, incapable of setting deadlines, incapable of meeting deadlines, incapable of working on their own, incapable of discretion, and most importantly, incapable of performing with any sense of urgency," she wrote.

Investigators found the testimony from her staff members more credible.

Her position was filled in January by Melissa Cohen, the former director of the Personnel Studies and Oversight office for the Marine Corps.

———

©2019 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

SEE ALSO: Navy Seeks Culture Change After 'Fat Leonard' Bribery Scandal

Photo: Twitter

For an organization that is constantly shining a light on things that would rather be kept out of the public eye, the moderators of U.S. Army WTF! Moments have done a remarkably impressive job at staying anonymous.

That is, until Monday.

Read More Show Less

For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.

"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.

In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.

"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."

Read More Show Less

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has confirmed that a nightmare scenario has come to pass: Captured ISIS fighters are escaping as a result of Turkey's invasion of Kurdish-held northeast Syria.

Turkey's incursion has led to "the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees," Esper said in a statement on Monday.

Read More Show Less
ABC News anchor Tom Llamas just before his network airs grossly inaccurate footage

Video footage of a purported "bombing of Kurd civilians" by Turkish military forces shown on ABC News appeared to be a nighttime firing of tracer rounds at a Kentucky gun range.

Read More Show Less

The U.S. military's seemingly never-ending mission supporting civil authorities along the southwestern border will last at least another year.

On Sept. 3, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to provide a total of up to 5,500 troops along the border until Sept. 30, 2020, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Army North, said on Monday.

Read More Show Less