WASHINGTON – At a press conference yesterday, a broad, bipartisan coalition of senators and advocates pressed for Congress to pass the recently introduced the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act. The bill is led by its author, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and longtime legislative partner Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

 Transcribed remarks of Sen. Grassley [VIDEO]:
Thank you Senator Gillibrand. She is our leader, and I try to help. Eight years have come and not gone. The time has arrived for this legislation. I congratulate you Senator Gillibrand. With all your hard work and consistency, looks like we’re going to have success this year. And I think an old adage that I use, I don’t know whether it’s mine or somebody else’s adage, but if you’re right eventually you win out in the Congress of the United States. This is the perfect example of your hard work paying off, maybe longer than it should have but paying off now.
Sexual assault cannot be tolerated any place, but particularly in the military. We’ve had Department of Defense promises each time the Gillibrand bill been tried to be brought up before. Promises that they were going to take some action that would change things. So this legislation would not be necessary. But that promise was never delivered on. In fact, statistics would prove just the opposite. People that face sexual assault, should not face retaliation for that. And particularly when the perpetrators get off or don’t suffer very much.
So, we must get the prosecution out of the hands of the chain of command. That’s the only way that justice is going to be done. Let me finish with this. The military, each branch, espouses values of personal responsibility and accountability. The actions of each individual in the military reflects on the unit and the service as a whole. So each individual must shoulder the personal responsibility to prevent sexual assault and encourage a culture of accountability for the perpetrators.
The Military Justice Improvement Act was first introduced in 2013 by Gillibrand and Grassley, with the goal of professionalizing how the military prosecutes serious crimes, like sexual assault, by moving the decision over whether or not to prosecute from the chain of command to independent, trained and professional military prosecutors. That bill and this year’s updated legislation will help remove the systemic fear that survivors of military sexual assault describe in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them. Uniquely military crimes, such as a soldier going AWOL, and other non-judicial and administrative remedies, would stay within the chain of command.
Specifically, the Military Justice Improvement and Increased Prevention Act would do the following: 
  • Grant the authority to send criminal charges to trial (disposition authority) to designated judge advocates (military lawyers) in the rank of O-6 or higher who possess significant criminal justice experience.
  • Ensure that judge advocates vested with disposition authority would
    • Be outside the chain of command of the accused.
    • Exercise professional prosecutorial judgment when deciding whether to proceed to court martial.
    • Render decisions to proceed to trial free from conflicts of interest.
·       Improve physical security of service member living spaces and increase training on sexual assault prevention.
The legislative coalition was bolstered this year by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), herself both a combat veteran and a survivor, who further refined the legislation.
The bill is also cosponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Angus King (I-Maine), Michael Braun (R-Ind.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wy.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act is also endorsed by VFW, IAVA, Vietnam Veterans of America, Protect our Defenders, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, SWAN, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), Common Defense, Veterans Recovery Project.
Full video of this week’s press conference can be found HERE