It began with a pair of sparkly pants.

Around the time he became director of the Pentagon’s Space Security and Defense Program in 2013, Andrew Cox received a framed pair of tight, silver pants as a gag gift. He hung the glittery jeans behind his office door with a note: “Break here in the event of an emergency.”

He occasionally joked that the pants could seduce Washington officials into giving SSDP more funding.

At a workplace holiday party a few years later, Cox received a silver case filled with sex toys and other paraphernalia. And in 2018, the high-ranking civilian donned a “mankini” — over his clothes — that he was given at the office’s “Bad Santa” party, in front of several dozen SSDP employees and their families.

The mankini made at least one other appearance at the office.

“It was chartreuse green, and he brought it out into the main area,” one person said of the strappy, skimpy bathing suit popularized by the 2006 film “Borat.” “He [told us he] put it on in front of his wife and bent over and said, ‘Honey, how do you like this?’”

The incidents fueled an Air Force inspector general investigation into Cox’s workplace antics in late 2020. Though the six-month inquiry substantiated multiple claims of unprofessional behavior and misconduct, Cox remained a senior civilian employee in the Space Force, with an annual six-figure salary. He also started overseeing a new unit focused on space combat planning.

Cox became the inaugural head of the Space Force’s new Space Warfighting Analysis Center in April 2021, the same month the inspector general released the investigation report internally. Air Force Times obtained a redacted copy of the report Wednesday.

“Mr. Cox remains the director of the Space Warfighting Analysis Center,” Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said Friday. “The matter was addressed through established civilian personnel processes.”

Cox entered government service in 1997, according to his official biography. He rose through various military and intelligence community positions to become the head of SSDP’s predecessor unit, the Space Protection Program, in 2011. The organization became SSDP in 2013.

The inspector general’s office also looked into claims that Frank Di Pentino, SSDP’s director of advanced concepts, tactics and wargames, was complicit in Cox’s behavior, but found no evidence to back up those allegations. He was dropped as a subject in January 2021.

Employees interviewed by the Inspector General’s Office described Cox as a technically brilliant, collaborative thinker who asks “some of the best questions … of any leader in the Space Force.” Still, they said, SSDP became like a frat house.

“He has a leadership style where he likes to bring everybody in, kind of take the problem apart … and have lots of people in the room,” one complainant said. “When he’s not talking business, [he] is … acting like a 13-year-old boy.”

“Cox has done good things for this country — things that most people will never know about,” another complainant said. “I … want him there, just without the [character] issues.”

In 2017, Cox offered as a retirement gift a pair of platform shoes with goldfish inside, the report said. The shoes were off-color but not necessarily sexual, witnesses said.

Later that year, Cox was presented with another gag gift: an aluminum case filled with handcuffs, Vaseline, oils, sex toys and lockable “hot pants,” or extremely short shorts. The case stayed with the glittery pants in his office.

In August 2019, Cox and Di Pentino met with subordinates to go over briefing slides ahead of a presentation the next day.

“The silver case came up in the conversation, which prompted Mr. Cox to go next door to his office and return with the silver case, placing it open on the table,” the report said.

“When I turned around at one point, I saw the director had removed a pair of handcuffs and was dangling them in his hands,” a female interviewee told the inspector general’s office. “I do remember hearing another ‘grrr’ purring sound from Mr. Di Pentino. … I never heard anyone suggest that they should talk about something else or change the topic.”

The woman, a contractor with the defense firm SAIC who worked with SSDP, reported the incident shortly afterward. Cox apologized about a month later.

Another time, Cox faced nonjudicial punishment for presenting a “glass case with a gold G-string in it for an admiral” who was leaving the National Reconnaissance Office, the report said. “Cox described stuffing the crotch … with socks to make it look bigger and put dollar bills in it.”

The director made other sexually charged comments around the office as well, the report said.

He discussed male genital piercings and oral sex in public, including at a military retirement ceremony, according to the report. Cox was also allegedly a fan of using “That’s what she said,” a joke that sexualizes otherwise innocuous comments, and other profanity.

“Witness testimony about Mr. Cox telling subordinates to search ‘Prince Albert’ on the internet, or [to] grab someone ‘by the balls and squeeze,’ give insight into the culture [he] fostered and encouraged,” the report said.

Interviewees recalled instances when Cox glorified office drinking and urged others to take shots of liquor, or tried to “lighten the mood” after meetings with crude humor.

“He does not correct his employees’ behavior,” the report added. “The culture he promoted required those working at SSDP to have thick skin and was unsuitable for a federal workplace.

Four people spoke to Cox about his behavior on several different occasions between September 2019 and December 2020, according to the report. He tried to learn what had offended people but did not appear remorseful for his behavior in public, the investigation said.

One female contractor who worked for SSDP until October 2020 quit because of Cox’s behavior, which made her feel “ostracized and uncomfortable,” according to the report. Instead of changing his behavior overall, Cox allegedly told the woman he would “treat [her] differently” and without his usual “silliness.”

He removed the sexual items from his office in November 2020, when multiple people levied complaints against him to the inspector general. But it was too late, the report said.

“Complainants and [redacted] clearly lost confidence in his leadership, despite their appreciation of his leadership outside of this behavior,” the investigation concluded. “[His] conduct was improper and unsuitable [and] compromised his standing as a senior executive service civilian.”

Cox appealed the investigation’s findings, and the Air Force dropped three of its six allegations of misconduct, the service said in a letter to Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., that was obtained Wednesday by Air Force Times.

The letter did not specify which allegations were dropped.

Instead of a 30-day suspension as initially proposed, Cox received a letter of reprimand, took a hit on his performance review, and lost out on bonus pay of more than $27,000. His nomination for a federal award, which came with a cash prize of nearly $40,000, was also rescinded.

“The Air Force fully acknowledged the substantiated allegations of unprofessional conduct by Mr. Cox and its impact on the workforce and mission,” the service told Lamborn. “The Air Force also acknowledged that Mr. Cox had a spotless performance and conduct record. … The Air Force believes it took appropriate action in formally reprimanding Mr. Cox.”

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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