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Science Committee Expands Investigation of Harassment in Antarctica

NOV 20, 2023
Andrea Peterson
Senior Data Analyst
McMurdo 2023 August.jpg

McMurdo Station in August 2023.

(Karen Pszonka)

Leaders of the House Science Committee sent letters last week to the National Science Foundation and federal contractor Leidos that criticize their handling of harassment and assault among personnel in the U.S. Antarctic Program. The letters expand on their concerns that Leidos inaccurately told the committee it had received zero allegations of sexual assault since it became the lead logistics contractor for the program. Leidos later stated that it had in fact received 19 allegations of sexual harassment and four of sexual assault since late 2016.

The committee’s letters say that continued conversations with witnesses have further called into question the accuracy of information provided to Congress. They also express concern that NSF and Leidos have not adequately prioritized the safety of victims and that NSF has not done enough to address cultural issues within the program that contribute to harassment.

“The apparent inadequacy of these investigations and others ultimately falls to the NSF for failing to conduct sufficient oversight of its contractors and subcontractors and not requiring them to meet expectations,” wrote Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). “We hope to better understand NSF’s actual role and why witnesses have described a lack of NSF involvement in investigating their reports and keeping them safe.”

The letter concludes with a long list of questions regarding NSF’s harassment policies and contracting procedures and what changes it plans to implement. The committee is also seeking extensive documentation related to the matter, including email correspondence, Leidos performance reviews, and incident reports.

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