– At a press
yesterday, a broad, bipartisan coalition of senators and
advocates pressed for Congress to pass the recently introduced the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention
. The bill is led
by its author, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and longtime legislative partner
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
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
Military Justice Improvement Act
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.
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.
professional prosecutorial judgment when deciding whether to proceed to
- Render decisions
to proceed to trial free from conflicts of interest.
physical security of service member living spaces and increase training on
sexual assault prevention.
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
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
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.
video of this week’s press conference can be found HERE