Air Force orders probe into domestic violence cases after CBS News reports

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has ordered an investigation into cases involving alleged domestic violence following a two-year investigation by CBS News anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell and the investigative unit into the military’s handling of such cases. 

“I am extremely troubled by the claims of inappropriate handling of domestic violence complaints highlighted in your broadcast and have directed the Department of the Air Force Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive review of those cases,” Kendall said in a statement Wednesday.

Kendall said the watchdog would review the investigations of the allegations, disciplinary actions and the support provided to victims. 

“There is absolutely no place for sexual assault, sexual harassment, or domestic violence in the Department of the Air Force,” he said. 

CBS News’ investigation found that roughly 100,000 incidents of domestic abuse have been reported to the military since 2015. Nearly 40 domestic violence survivors told CBS News that the military failed to protect them. 

Among those who spoke to CBS News was now-retired Master Sergeant Erica Johnson, who told Air Force leaders in 2019 that she was being physically and sexually assaulted. The Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations opened an investigation, but it “didn’t go anywhere,” Johnson said. 

Emily Brearley told the Air Force she feared for her life after her then-partner, an Air Force officer, had allegedly attempted to strangle her and beat her. 

She repeatedly told the Air Force about the alleged violence, and the Office of Special Investigations did open an investigation. But the Air Force did nothing to keep her safe, she said. Instead, they promoted her partner, who received verbal counseling.

CBS News investigation into domestic abuse in the military:

“It was severe betrayal”: Military has failed to address domestic violence, survivors say

One woman reported domestic violence to the Air Force. This is how its investigation unfolded

The Pentagon has spent $1 billion on a program for domestic abuse victims since 2015. Survivors say they couldn’t get help

Military’s domestic violence crisis compounded after 20 years of war