Gillibrand eyes NDAA for military sexual assault revamp

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Thursday the annual defense policy bill will be the likely vehicle to enact an overhaul of how sexual assault is handled within the military.

“Usually this type of reform is in the National Defense Authorization [Act],” Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in an interview on MSNBC. “That is our goal, and it should be done this year.”

The issue has long been a signature focus of Gillibrand’s and the effort has recently picked up momentum, including through a high-profile spread in the New York Times.

Supporters of the revamp, which would take sexual assault prosecutions out of the hands of military commanders, say that sexual assault remains a pervasive problem within the armed services and previous attempts to address the matter without altering the chain of command have not borne fruit.

“Under any measurable, things aren’t getting better,” Gillibrand said.

That is one reason that some lawmakers previously reticent to support the reforms have begun warming up to the idea.

“We’re not seeing a decrease in sexual assaults. We are not seeing the command climates change,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a sexual assault survivor herself who appeared jointly with Gillibrand.

Ernst, a military veteran with a daughter at West Point, said she had been “very torn” but that the documented culture of rampant violence, misconduct and sexual harassment at Fort Hood was a tipping point for her. The senator has now teamed up with Gillibrand to champion the legislation.

“We have got to get to the heart of that issue, and that simple move will be by taking the prosecution — that decision making authority — out of that commander’s hands [and] putting it with a specialized prosecutor.”

Gillibrand also said that several U.S. allies have instituted similar processes to adjudicate cases within their own militaries.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has also prioritized combating sexual assault and harassment within the ranks and empaneled a commission to make recommendations on the issue.

,

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Thursday the annual defense policy bill will be the likely vehicle to enact an overhaul of how sexual assault is handled within the military.

“Usually this type of reform is in the National Defense Authorization [Act],” Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in an interview on MSNBC. “That is our goal, and it should be done this year.”

The issue has long been a signature focus of Gillibrand’s and the effort has recently picked up momentum, including through a high-profile spread in the New York Times.

Supporters of the revamp, which would take sexual assault prosecutions out of the hands of military commanders, say that sexual assault remains a pervasive problem within the armed services and previous attempts to address the matter without altering the chain of command have not borne fruit.

“Under any measurable, things aren’t getting better,” Gillibrand said.

That is one reason that some lawmakers previously reticent to support the reforms have begun warming up to the idea.

“We’re not seeing a decrease in sexual assaults. We are not seeing the command climates change,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a sexual assault survivor herself who appeared jointly with Gillibrand.

Ernst, a military veteran with a daughter at West Point, said she had been “very torn” but that the documented culture of rampant violence, misconduct and sexual harassment at Fort Hood was a tipping point for her. The senator has now teamed up with Gillibrand to champion the legislation.

“We have got to get to the heart of that issue, and that simple move will be by taking the prosecution — that decision making authority — out of that commander’s hands [and] putting it with a specialized prosecutor.”

Gillibrand also said that several U.S. allies have instituted similar processes to adjudicate cases within their own militaries.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has also prioritized combating sexual assault and harassment within the ranks and empaneled a commission to make recommendations on the issue.

Leave a Reply