Missile Defense Agency Chief Sexually Harassed Employee for 7 Years, Watchdog Report Concludes

September 16, 2020 Updated: September 17, 2020

The second top official at the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) sexually harassed a female employee over the course of 7 years, according to a report by the Department of Defense Inspector General released on Sept. 16.

From 2012 to 2019, MDA Executive Director John James made repeat unwanted physical contact with an employee over whom he had no direct supervisory role and with whom he had no reason to interact professionally, the report found (pdf).

James often sought out the employee at MDA events, asked for her personal information, made inappropriate comments, and engaged in unwanted physical contact that suggested he had a sexual interest in her.

James retired from government service before the investigation was completed.

As the executive director, James was the senior civilian at the MDA and reported to the director of the agency. He started serving in the role in May 2011. In 2012, he began approaching the employee regularly to speak with her during her off-duty time.

Over the next year, he began inviting the employee to his office. Sometime before 2015, he approached the employee in a parking lot and asked for her personal cell phone number. The inspector general approximated some of the dates due to the witnesses not having a specific recollection of the dates due to the passage of time.

Sometime before 2016, James stopped the employee as she walked in from the rain and brushed water from her raincoat. He also sought out the employee at MDA events. At two events, he took the woman by her hand and led her to the dance floor. Around 2017, he shook hands with the employee and would hold her hand for extended periods of time, the report states.

“I’ve been chasing you for 7 years,” James told the woman in September 2018, according to the report.

James continued to invite the employee to his office, including under the pretense of helping her with her career. She repeatedly denied the invitations, as recently as February 2019. In July 2019, he told the woman, “Even though you’re wearing all black, I was still able to find you.”

The employee supervisor told the IG that James’s conduct was “wrong.”

“It’s just wrong,” the supervisor said. “It is definitely harassment.”

The employee submitted her complaint on Aug. 5, 2019. The DOD IG opened the investigation the next month.

James had also made inappropriate advances to a second employee, including by giving her two neck massages, according to the inspector general. The watchdog could not confirm a complaint for a third woman, who said that James asked to open her jacket so he could see her sweater.

“The effect of Mr. James’s actions and comments created an intimidating, hostile, and offensive work environment for [the two employees]. His physical interactions and statements caused them to avoid contact with him, and both [employees] told us and others that they feared being fired or suffering other negative consequences if they complained about his behavior,” the report concluded.

The MDA gave James an opportunity to respond to the findings of the report. He did not submit a response.

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