Quotes You Should Read

Military Brass

Secretary of Defense, DICK CHENEY – 1992:

“Well, we’ve got a major effort under way to try to educate everybody, to let them know we have a zero tolerance policy where sexual assault is involved.”

Secretary of Defense, CHUCK HAGEL – October 14, 2013:

“And this — this board was — was empanelled in 1951. And it’s gone through ups and downs in how the secretaries have used it. But I have put a premium on that advisory board.” (regarding DOD’s DACOWITS panel that voted in favor of Gillibrand approach)

“(The) chain of command has failed over the years, obviously, for a lot of reasons.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General MARTIN DEMPSEY admits bias in system that is “a little too forgiving” – May, 17 2013:

“You might argue that we have become a little too forgiving because, if a perpetrator shows up at a court-martial with a rack of ribbons and has four deployments and a Purple Heart, there is certainly the risk that we might be a little too forgiving of that particular crime.” (in response to a question regarding sexual assault crimes)

Commandant of the Marine Corps, General JAMES F. AMOS admits “they don’t trust us” and “become so soft” – April 2013:

Statement from April 19, 2013 speech at Parris Island, “Why wouldn’t female Marines come forward? Because they don’t trust us. They don’t trust the command. They don’t trust the leadership.” And then went on to lament a climate in which leaders have “become so soft” on holding wrongdoers accountable.   

Secretary of the Army, JOHN MCHUGH Admits Failure – June 2013:

Secretary of the Army John McHugh conceded, “We have failed” when it comes to dealing with sexual assault.

Army Chief of Staff, General RAYMOND ODIERNO Agrees Trust Has Been Violated – June 4, 2013:

“Our profession is built on the bedrock of trust – the trust that must inherently exist among Soldiers, and between Soldiers and their leaders to accomplish their mission in the chaos of war. Recent incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment demonstrate that we have violated that trust.”

Former Defense Secretary LEON PANETTA says most important thing is increasing prosecutions – April 2012:

“The most important thing we can do is prosecute the offenders, deal with those that have broken the law and committed this crime. And if we can do that then we can begin to deal with this issue and send a signal this is not a problem that we are going to ignore in the United States military.”

FORMER PENTAGON GENERAL COUNSEL JEH JOHNSON on need for “fundamental change”:

Former Pentagon General Counsel, Jeh Johnson, who served from 2009 until the end of 2012, was recently asked, “Are there short comings in the military’s justice system that make it so [sexual assault] isn’t being treated seriously enough and victims don’t trust the system?” His reply was, “I have recently come to the conclusion that the answer to that question is, yes.” He went on to say, “Last year Secretary Panetta raised the initial disposition authority for how these cases should be handled to the 06 colonel captain level, and the problem, I believe, has become so pervasive, the bad behavior is so pervasive, we need to look at fundamental change in the military justice system itself.”

Retired Military

Lt. General (Ret.) Claudia Kennedy:

“Having served in leadership positions in the US Army, I have concluded that if military leadership hasn’t fixed the problem in my lifetime, it’s not going to be fixed without a change to the status quo. The imbalance of power and authority held by commanders in dealing with sexual assaults must be corrected. There has to be independent oversight over what is happening in these cases. Simply put, we must remove the conflicts of interest in the current system…The system in which a commander can sweep his own crime or the crime of a decorated soldier or friend under the rug, protects the guilty and protects serial predators. And it harms military readiness…Until leadership is held accountable, this won’t be corrected. To hold leadership accountable means there must be independence and transparency in the system. Permitting professionally trained prosecutors rather than commanding officers to decide whether to take sexual assault cases to trial is measured first step toward such accountability…I have no doubt that command climate, unit cohesion and readiness will be improved by (these) changes.”

Brigadier General (Ret.) Loree Sutton:

“Failure to achieve these reforms would be a further tragedy to an already sorrowful history of inattention and ineptitude concerning military sexual assault. In my view, achieving these essential reform measures must be considered as a national security imperative, demanding immediate action to prevent further damage to individual health and well-being, vertical and horizontal trust within units, military institutional reputation, operational mission readiness and the civilian-military compact. Far from ‘stripping’ commanders of accountability, as some detractors have suggested, these improvements will remove the inherent conflict of interest that clouds the perception and, all too often, the decision-making process under the current system. Implementing these reforms will actually support leaders to build and sustain unit cultures marked by respect, good order and discipline.”

Brigadier General (Ret.) David McGinnis:

“I fully support your efforts to stamp out sexual assault in the United States military and believer that there is nothing in (Military Justice Improvement Act) that is inconsistent with the responsibility or authority of command. Your efforts in this regard have much broader implications that will actually strengthen the ‘good order and discipline’ of our military, which I believe accounts for much of the resistance that S967 is receiving…Protecting the victims of these abuses and restoring American values to our military culture is long overdue.” 

Air Force Major General (Ret.), Martha Rainville, the first woman in the history of the National Guard to serve as a state Adjutant General, and served in the military for twenty-seven years, including fourteen years in command positions wrote in a letter to Gillibrand:

“As a former commander, endorsing a change that removes certain authority from military commanders has been a tough decision,” said Rainville. “It was driven by my conviction that our men and women in uniform deserve to know, without doubt, that they are valued and will be treated fairly with all due process should they report an offense and seek help, or face being accused of an offense. When allegations of serious criminal misconduct have been made, the decision whether to prosecute should be made by a trained legal professional. Fairness and justice require sound judgment based on evidence and facts, independent of pre-existing command relationships.”

U.S. Army Maj. General (Ret.) Dennis Laich

“We have relied on the chain of command to deal with this issue, and the chain of command has failed for decades. America gives us their sons and daughters, and we’ve failed to discharge the responsibility to take care of them.”

Lory Manning, Captain, USN (Ret), served active duty in the U.S. Navy for 25 years, and served as a Commanding Officer and court-martial Convening Authority for the almost 400 people who were part of her command.

“As a former Commanding Officer and Convening Authority, I completely understand the services’ insistence that commanders must retain their authority to dispose of charges of sexual assault. However, as an advocate for military women– and men – it is crystal clear to me that too many commanders have betrayed the trust placed in them by their subordinates, their services and their fellow citizens because they have not used this authority properly. I have, therefore, come to the reluctant conclusion that that authority must be removed from the chain of command and placed in the hands of trained military prosecutors who can serve as unbiased, professional experts on the disposition of sexual assaults and other felony cases. This is critical to ending sexual assault in the military.”

Former Army JAG officer with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division while stationed in Iraq from 2003-2004 and former Congressman Patrick Murphy:

“It’s time for real, commonsense changes. District attorneys and attorneys general don’t have to get permission from mayors or governors to prosecute cases because they’re independent. At the felony level, military judge advocates should be independent too.”

Former Air Force officer and law professor Diane H. Mazur:

“Everything about the proposal takes military needs into account, except for the fact that military leaders don’t like change.”


Paula Coughlin, US Navy

“It has to come out of the chain of command, because the chain of command has really become impotent. The chain of command is vested in protecting itself, and so often, the perpetrator of the assault is in the chain of command.”

Myla Haider, US Army

“All of the other women who were involved in the case had been attacked after I was attacked,” Haider said. “So I thought the only right thing for me to do was to be involved. My reporting of it took over my life, ruined my career and wound up, ultimately, getting me kicked out of the Army.”

Jessica Hinves, US Air Force

“Two days before the court hearing, his commander called me on a conference at the JAG office, and he said he didn’t believe that he acted like a gentleman, but there wasn’t reason to prosecute. So, we got — I was speechless. I didn’t even know that was an option. Legal had been telling me this is going to go through court. We had the court date set for several months. And two days before, his commander stopped it. I later found out the commander had no legal education or background, and he’d only been in command for four days.”

Ariana Klay,US Marine Corps

“The thing that makes me the most angry is not even the rape itself; it’s the commanders that were complicit in covering up everything that happened.”

Trina McDonald, US Navy

“The people that were involved in my assaults were police personnel, security personnel, higher-ranking officers, the people that I would have gone to and reported.”

Panayiota Bertzikis, Coast Guard

“I am the victim of this crime, and then you report it, and then I felt like I was the one on trial — I was the one who did something wrong,” Bertzikis says. “He got a free pass. I was the one fighting to stay in.”

Ayana Harrell, US Army Veteran

“I feel if I didn’t have to report to my chain of command and if military sexual trauma assault was not so hush and was being talked about more, I would have said something,”

Rebekah Havrilla, U.S. Army

“What we need is a military with a fair and impartial criminal justice system. One that is run by professional and legal experts, not unit commanders.”

Tara Johnson, US Marine Corps

“I was assigned a male provider who was new to the VA. During my first appointment through tears and fear I again disclosed my experience with MST,” Johnson said of a 2012 visit to a VA facility. “The provider looked at me, widened his eyes, sat back in his chair and said, ‘Well, do you really think you were raped?’”

Brian Lewis, US Navy

“Survivors in turn are afraid to report out of fear of being retaliated against, labeled with errant medical diagnoses, such as personality or bipolar disorder, and involuntarily discharged.

“The military has proven time and again that it is not capable of punishing the perpetrators or stopping the sexual assault epidemic. It is time to implement fundamental change and start doing right by our men and women, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers in uniform. This legislation is a major step in that direction.”

Jenny McClendon, US Navy

“Essentially, I was diagnosed with a personality disorder for failing to adjust adequately to being raped.”

BriGette McCoy, United States Army

“I have to say I no longer have any hope that the military chain of command will consistently, prosecute, convict, sentence and carry out the sentencing of sexual predators in uniform without absconding justice somehow.”

Jennifer Norris, US Air Force

“When I did come forward to my command, I became one of far too many who fall victim to manipulation and abuse of authority by perpetrators who are higher ranking and have more credibility than those who are in charge.”

Terri Odom, US Navy

“You don’t just wake up one day from a severe trauma and suddenly come down with personality disorder,” Odom said. “They re-victimize you.”

Sarah Plummer, US Marine Corps

“Having someone within your direct chain of command handling the case, it just doesn`t make sense. It`s like your brother raping you and having your dad decide the case.”

Key Facts and Info

Read the Gillibrand Report of Four Largest U.S. Military Bases (2015): Documents Reveal Continued Lack of Improvement in Military Justice System

Read the Gillibrand Report of Four Largest U.S. Military Bases (2014)Despite Recent Congressional Reforms, Dysfunction In Military Justice System Remains

Read the Gillibrand Report of Four Largest U.S. Military Bases (2013): Nearly Half of Survivors Who Reported Assaults Dropped Out of Military Justice Process; Sexual Assaults More Prevalent Than Previously Acknowledged (pdf)

Read AP story: "Pentagon Misled Lawmakers on Military Sexual Assault Cases"

Read Human Rights Watch Report: U.S. Raped In Military - Then Punished: Unjust Discharges Cause Lasting Harm

Read "Embattled" the Human Rights Watch Report: Survivors 12x More Likely to Suffer Retaliation Than See Assailant Convicted; Not A Single Case of Serious Disciplinary Action Found for Retaliation (pdf)

NY Times Magazine Cover Story: "The Military's Rough Justice on Sexual Assault" on military’s continued failure to combat sexual assault – including accounts of retribution and retaliation

VIDEO: “Military Justice’s Dirty Secret”: Fmr. Chief Prosecutor USAF “Put Out to Pasture” for Speaking Out & Doing His Job

5/9/16 DOD IG Report: Evaluation of the Separation of Service Members Who Made a Report of Sexual Assault 

Quotes You Should Read

MJIA: Myths vs Facts sheet

12/3/2014: Top Reasons Why Military Justice Improvement Act Is Still Needed After Previous Incremental NDAA Reforms (pdf)

Senators Who Voted In Favor of MJIA

Retired Military Officers Supporting MJIA

Veterans', Faith, & Women's Groups Supporting MJIA

Letter from UCMJ legal experts supporting MJIA (pdf)

Editorials & Op-Eds Supporting MJIA

ESPN Report: The Enemy Within

Read DOD’s Own Advisory Panel Opinion in Support of MJIA

Allies Testimony: No Impact on Good Order & Discipline From Change To Independent Military Justice System

Gillibrand Testimony to Response Systems Panel

Text of Response Systems Panel Dissent (pdf)

List of Excluded Offenses

Useful Links

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Vietnam Veterans of America

Survivor Stories: 1 | 2

DOD Annual SAPR Reports

Defense Advisory Committee on Women

The Invisible War

“Twice Betrayed” Investigative Report

ESPN Report: The Enemy Within

Service Women’s Action Network

Protect Our Defenders