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2 ADMIRALS RESIGN OVER '91 INCIDENT

The Navy's acting civilian chief accepted Thursday the resignation of two admirals accused of botching the Navy's investigation of the Tailhook sex scandal. He said a third admiral would be reassigned.

Sean O'Keefe, the acting secretary of the Navy, said he accepted the two admirals' requests for retirement, and he vowed that in the future the Navy would have an improved capability to investigate allegations of misconduct.O'Keefe said that Navy Undersecretary Dan Howard would remain in his job. O'Keefe called him merely a "referee" in the botched investigation.

At a noontime Pentagon news conference, O'Keefe announced that he was replacing Rear Adm. Duvall M. Williams, commander of the Naval Investigative Service, which handles criminal inquiries, and replacing him with a senior civilian official.

He said Williams had requested retirement.

O'Keefe also announced that Rear Adm. John Gordon, the Navy judge advocate general, will be granted his request for retirement. Gordon is the Navy's chief legal officer.

Rear Adm. George Washington Davis, the Navy inspector general, will be reassigned within the Navy, O'Keefe said, after the Senate confirms his replacement. O'Keefe said the inspector general post would be upgraded from a two-star to a three-star admiral's position.

O'Keefe made his announcements shortly after the release of a Defense Department inspector general's report that recommended considering the removal of Gordon, Davis, Williams and Howard.

O'Keefe said he had decided not to remove Howard because he was confident that he had performed as well as possible during the Tailhook investigation. He said the failure was not Howard's but that of officials and officers reporting to Howard.

O'Keefe, who has been the acting Navy secretary for 21/2 months, pledged at the news conference to change the "culture" of the sea service to avoid future sex scandals and to improve the Navy's ability to investigate itself.

"Sexual harassment will not be tolerated," he said. "And those who don't get the message will be driven out of the service."

The Navy has come under increasing criticism for failing to pursue aggressively the Navy and Marine Corps officers who sexually assaulted at least 26 women at the Tailhook convention a year ago.

"The principals in the Navy investigations erred when they allowed their concern for the Navy as an institution to obscure the need to determine accountability for the misconduct," wrote Pentagon Inspector General Derek Vander Schaaf in a report.

In particular, Vander Schaaf cited Williams and Gordon, saying "appropriate disciplinary action" should be taken against them. Williams repeatedly attempted to halt the investigation, while Gordon was cited for "poor professional judgment."

Williams, the NIS commander, was singled out for his attitude toward women in the military, an opinion that should have raised concerns about his ability to conduct a full and proper investigation, the report said.

He said "men simply do not want women in the military" and appeared to share that view himself, according to the report.

The report said that Williams, in a "screaming match" with a senior female Navy civilian, "made comments to the effect that a lot of female Navy pilots are go-go dancers, topless dancers or hookers."

Williams argued to halt the investigation in December 1991 and said his office didn't have "a fart's chance in a whirlwind" of getting to the bottom of it all, the report said.

For his part, Gordon "failed to ensure that the Navy fully addressed the issues" in the investigation and failed to provide the service with "a comprehensive report" that the service could use to correct its problems.

Davis "did not ensure that his reports had a factual basis" and relied too heavily on the NIS's work, the report said.

Howard was faulted for a "failure to provide effective leadership and direction," which was deemed a "key failure" in the Navy's handling of the scandal.

Howard should have handed the investigation over to the Pentagon inspector general for a full-scale inquiry instead of letting the Navy's inspector general and NIS handle it, the report said.

The NIS was criticized for failing to follow up on information they had been given about "improprieties and other possible crimes" at the convention and failing to pass what they knew up the chain of command.