Comprehensive Resource Center for the Military Justice Improvement Act
Looking to end the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, a bipartisan coalition of 55 Senators - 43 Democrats, 11 Republicans and 1 Independent - came together to reverse the systemic fear that victims of military sexual assault have described in deciding whether or not to report the crimes committed against them due to the clear bias and inherent conflicts of interest posed by the military chain of command’s current sole decision-making power over whether cases move forward to a trial. While this common sense proposal was filibustered on the Senate floor, the fight to pass this critically needed reform continues.
The carefully crafted Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) S.1752, moves the decision whether to prosecute any crime punishable by one year or more in confinement to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors, with the exception of crimes that are uniquely military in nature, such as disobeying orders or going Absent Without Leave. The decision whether to prosecute 37 serious crimes uniquely military in nature, plus all crimes punishable by less than one year of confinement, would remain within the chain of command.
According to the FY2014 SAPRO report released by the Defense Department:
An estimated 19,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact and sexual assaults occurred in FY2014.
In 2013, 1 in 10 survivors was willing to report. In 2014, it was less than 3 out of 10.
At the same time, even among those who did report, the percent of survivors who reported through the unrestricted process went down from 76.6 percent to 75.2 percent – and the rate has been going down since 2010. More survivors are reporting, but fewer are willing to go through the military justice process.
Despite an 8% increase in overall reports of sexual assault, the number of restricted reports – those where the survivor does not pursue justice – had a 13% increase, demonstrating the continued lack of confidence in the military justice system.
Commanders only sent 12 more cases to trial this year (496) than they did last year (484) and convictions have gone down to 359 this year from an anemic 376 last year.
For the last 3 years, the same number of assailants have been allowed to resign or be discharged in lieu of Courts-Martial (4% of cases in 2014, 2013, and 2012).
Another report released by the Defense Department last year showed that more than 1 in 5 female servicemembers reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact while serving in the military. Even the current top military leadership admits the current system “has failed” and as Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos stated this year, victims do not come forward because “they don’t trust the chain of command.”
The problem of sexual assault in the military is not new, neither are the pledges of “zero tolerance” from commanders, which date all the way back to then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in 1992. Many of our allied modern militaries have moved reporting outside of the chain of command, such as Britain, Canada, Israel, Germany, Norway and Australia. At a September 2013 hearing, military leaders from Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel and Canada testified on how changes they’ve made to their justice systems — including the one up for debate in the Senate — haven’t caused problems for their commanders.
The Military Justice Improvement Act also:
Provides the offices of the military chiefs of staff with the authority and discretion to establish courts, empanel juries and choose judges to hear cases (i.e. convening authority).
This legislation does not amend Article 15. Commanding officers will still be able to order non-judicial punishment for lesser offenses not directed to trial by the prosecutors.
Protect Our Defenders Survivor Stories
Key Facts and Info
Senator Gillibrand Renews Push For MJIA 12/2/14
Col. (Ret.) Don Christensen Joins Senator Gillibrand in Push For MJIA, 12/2/14
Full MJIA Press Conference, 12/2/14
Press Conference With Survivors & Advocates, 11/19/13
Senator Gillibrand's Floor Speech 11/14/13
Senator Gillibrand Reading Survivors' Stories 11/14/13
MJIA Press Conference 11/6/13 - Senator Gillibrand
MJIA Press Conference 11/6/13 - Ariana & Ben Klay
Senate Armed Services Committee 3/13/13
ESPN E:60 "The Enemy Within"
San Antonio Express News "Twice Betrayed"