Boxer and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., wrote to Hagel last week asking him to look into the case. They called Franklin's decision to overturn the jury verdict "a travesty of justice." Franklin is commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, in a March 5 letter that Franklin's decision "shows ignorance, at best, and malfeasance, at worst." Franklin's decision undermines efforts by the Air Force and the other military branches "to erase a culture that has often turned a blind eye on sexual assault," McCaskill added.
Shaheen and McCaskill are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Air Force has been grappling for months with the fallout over a sex scandal at its training headquarters in Texas. Dozens of young female recruits and airmen at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio were victimized by their instructors who sexually harassed, improperly touched, or raped them.
During January testimony before a House committee, Welsh likened sexual assault in the Air Force's ranks to a cancer and vowed to tackle the problem by screening personnel more carefully and putting an end to bad behaviors like binge drinking that can lead to misconduct.