The Senate has rightly been criticized for failing to confirm President Obama’s appointees for important positions throughout the government. Most of those nominees are uncontroversial, and leaving those positions unfilled makes federal agencies less effective. But the case of Lt. Gen. Susan Helms highlights the Senate’s important oversight role through the confirmation process.
Lt. Gen. Helms was the first military woman to travel into space, so it makes sense that President Obama nominated her to take over as Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command. However, the Washington Post reports that in February 2012, Helms granted clemency to an Air Force officer under her command who was convicted of sexually assaulting a fellow officer. Sexual assault is a major problem in the military, and one that many feel that the Defense Department is not doing enough to address.