(Washington, DC) Today, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) sent a letter to the CEO of Leidos, Inc. raising concerns with the accuracy of information provided to Congress about reports of sexual assault in the United States Antarctic Program (USAP).
Leidos is the prime contractor in charge of running USAP’s administrative and operational functions. The Antarctic Program has had ongoing and widespread issues with harassment, stalking, and sexual assault, as outlined in a report commissioned by the National Science Foundation in 2022. The Committee has been conducting oversight of these issues since 2017 and held a hearing in December of 2022 on Building a Safer Antarctic Research Environment. At that hearing, Leidos’ Chief Operating Officer of the Civil Group, Kathleen Naeher, testified about Leidos’ operations in the Antarctic.
As Lucas and Lofgren detail in this letter, at the hearing Ms. Naeher was unable to answer a question about how many allegations of sexual harassment and assault in the USAP had been made to Leidos. After the conclusion of the hearing, then-Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson submitted this question as a Question for the Record (QFR) to Ms. Naeher.
Leidos responded to the QFR on January 17, 2023, stating that they had received “zero allegations of sexual assault” between May 2017 and April 2022. This information contradicts other internal Leidos documents provided to the Committee discussing a sexual assault allegation reported to Leidos in January 2020, leading the Committee to the conclusion that the official response was, at the very least, incorrect.
“Though Ms. Naeher told Committee staff that this occurred prior to the beginning of Leidos’s contract, the assault allegation was received in January 2020,” Lucas and Lofgren wrote. “Therefore, Leidos’ statement to Congress regarding ‘zero allegations of sexual assault’ from May 2017 to April 2022 is untrue. We invite Leidos to correct the record via a letter providing an accurate accounting of reports of sexual harassment and assault.”
Lucas and Lofgren raised further questions regarding Leidos’ cooperation with an ongoing NSF Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigation into the unsafe culture and environment at the Antarctic research facilities. In discussions with Committee staff, the OIG informed the Committee that auditors and investigators faced challenges when attempting to interview contracted and subcontracted employees. Ms. Naeher was unable to verify to Committee staff that all employees have been instructed to cooperate with the OIG.
“Anything short of clear instruction to employees and subcontractors to cooperate with the OIG is unacceptable,” Lucas and Lofgren wrote. “It is vital that all Leidos and subcontracted employees are made aware of the resources available to them and encouraged to engage with the NSF OIG.”
The full letter is available here.