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Arizona National Guard probe finds discipline issues

PHOENIX -- An investigation into a years-long series of misconduct and leadership problems at the Arizona National Guard found the improper acts were investigated but disciplinary action by commanders was spotty and inconsistent and some cases went unpunished or uninvestigated, including sexual assault cases.

The report done by the federal National Guard Bureau was released Thursday by Gov. Jan Brewer's office. The governor asked for the investigation after The Arizona Republic published a series of stories last year exposing years of misconduct by Arizona military personnel and raising questions about the Guard's leadership and culture. Allegations of wrongdoing included sexual abuses, drunken driving, narcotics trafficking, embezzlement, retaliation against whistle-blowers and abuses of power.

The report generally found the allegations reported by the Republic occurred and were mostly swiftly and effectively addressed. In some cases, the report found, punishment didn't follow military or state guidelines and was inconsistently administered.

The Guard investigation also uncovered additional misconduct ``along the same lines'' and said many members of the Guard who were caught were simply allowed to resign from active duty jobs, while retaining their rank and not receiving any blemish on their military records.

That was especially true of senior officers, some of whom were not subject to discipline because they were within two years of retirement.

The report also disclosed that the FBI continues to investigate allegations of fraud against member of the 214th Reconnaissance Group, part of a Tucson-based Air National Guard F-16 fighter wing. Those allegations weren't investigated further because the FBI warned it might interfere with its investigation.

Fraternization was rampant in some commands, according to the report. While sexual assault cases involving military members were turned over to local law enforcement, some cases went nowhere, even though they met internal Defense Department investigation standards.

``Identified victims of sexual assault and harassment stated that they had been victimized twice: once by the perpetrator and by the leadership that was unable to address their needs.

Brewer said in a lengthy statement accompanying the release of the report that ``it is clear that the Arizona National Guard is not `broken.'''

``The findings are not an indictment of the Arizona National Guard, nor its leadership,'' Brewer said. ``In fact, the Report states that `all of the misconduct brought to the attention of the leadership of the Arizona National Guard was investigated and addressed in accordance with Arizona administrative polices . overall the Arizona National Guard attempted to address misconduct when it occurred.''

Nonetheless, she continued, ``significant concerns were identified, and they will be remedied.''

The incidents occurred between 2005 and 2012. But the report said the biggest problems occurred prior to 2010, when they were ``at times hindered by instances of retaliation, reprisal and, in some cases, allegations of obstruction by personnel in the chain of command.''

The Republic series that prompted the report exposed a checkerboard of corruption that included sexual abuse and harassment, embezzlement, forgery, drug smuggling, firearms violations and whistleblower retaliation.

The governor's letter said the Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Hugo Salazar, has made progress addressing the issues since he was appointed in 2009 and earlier this year issued a new ethics code.

The Guard includes nearly 5,200 Army and about 2,500 Air Force members, many on permanent duty.

The report recommends a series of steps, including improving the disciplinary system, holding ethics and leadership training, and improving response to complaints of sexual assault and harassment.

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