The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) increases the budget of the Pentagon’s newest branch by billions of dollars. The funding increase comes after a top Space Force civilian employee sexually harassed his subordinates and kept his job.
The Space Force will receive $26.3 billion in the upcoming fiscal year, $1.7 billion greater than the Pentagon initially requested and an $8 billion boost over 2022’s funding levels.
Most of the money will go toward building satellites for various uses, as the Space Force recently said it would attempt to build more low-orbit satellites. Under the spending plan, private military contractors, such as Boeing, stand to make hundreds of millions.
The significant budget hike comes after a senior Space Force official, Andrew Cox, become embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal involving lower-ranking personnel. According to the Air Force Times, he encouraged a workplace culture where sex toys and “G-strings” were given as gifts, beginning sometime after he was tapped to lead the Pentagon’s Space Security and Defense Program (SSDP) in 2013.
During a meeting with SSDP subordinates in 2019, a female employee reported that Cox dangled a pair of handcuffs in front of her suggestively while another male staffer made a “purring sound.” In a separate incident for which he faced “nonjudicial punishment,“ Cox gifted a “glass case with a gold G-string in it“ to an unnamed admiral, according to an inspector general report cited by the Times. He was later said to have described to co-workers how he stuffed the underwear with socks to make it appear more well-endowed.
Some of Cox’s former colleagues say he regularly made inappropriate remarks around the office, with one employee describing the top official as “like a 13-year-old boy.” Additionally, Cox often sexualized innocuous comments with “that’s what she said” jokes.
Four different co-workers spoke with Cox about his actions at various times, and a Defense Department investigation later noted that while he “tried to learn what had offended people,“ he did not appear remorseful. In 2021, even after Cox’s inappropriate behavior was repeatedly documented, he was selected to be the first head of the Space Force’s new Space Warfighting Analysis Center.
Aside from the damage inflicted on his subordinates, Cox’s employees said his behavior made them lose faith in his ability to lead. Still, he received a relative slap on the wrist before he was ultimately promoted, including $27,000 in lost bonus pay, a poor performance review and a letter of reprimand from his superiors.