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

A Syrian commando-in-training applies the safety on his rifle during basic rifle marksmanship training in Syria, July 20, 2019. (U.S. Army/Spc. Alec Dionne)

The U.S. government failed to effectively account for nearly $715.8 million in weapons and equipment allocated to Syrian partners as part of the multinational counter-ISIS fight, according to a new report from the Defense Department inspector general.

Read More

On Feb. 19, 1945, more than 70,000 U.S. Marines conducted an amphibious assault to take the Island of Iwo Jima from fortified Japanese forces. Over the next 36 days nearly 7,000 Marines would be killed during the battle, which is regarded as one of the bloodiest of World War II, as they faced hidden enemy artillery, machine guns, vast bunker systems and underground tunnels. Of the 82 Marines who earned the Medal of Honor during all of World War II, 22 medals were earned for actions on Iwo Jima.

Now, 75 years later, 28 Marines and Sailors who fought on Iwo Jima gathered to remember the battle at the 75th and final commemoration sunset ceremony Feb. 15, 2020, at the Pacific Views Event Center on Camp Pendleton, California.

Read More
REUTERS/Scott Audette/File Photo

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), has long been seen as an apologist for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whom she met during a secret trip to Damascus in January 2017.

Most recently, a video was posted on Twitter shows Gabbard evading a question about whether Assad is a war criminal.

Since Gabbard is the only actively serving member of the military who is running for president — she is a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard — Task & Purpose sought to clarify whether she believes Assad has used chlorine gas and chemical weapons to kill his own people.

Read More
Barrett's bolt-action Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) system (Courtesy photo)

The Army is almost doubling its purchase of new bolt-action Precision Sniper Rifles as its primary anti-personnel sniper system of choice, according to budget documents.

Read More
The GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon (U.S. Air Force photo)

Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Air Force gunsmiths recently completed delivery of a new M4-style carbine designed to break down small enough to fit under most pilot ejection seats.

Read More