U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), today is expressing disappointment with the Pentagon’s proposed timeline—of up to nine years—to implement the findings of the Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Sexual Assault to combat sexual assault and harassment in the military. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the senators request a briefing outlining the Department of Defense’s methods of execution to achieve needed reforms.
Gillibrand and her colleagues write, “We write to express our disappointment and concern with the vague approach and lax timeline the Department of Defense has laid out in its Sept 22, 2021 memo ‘Commencing DoD Actions and Implementation to Address Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Military.’ This approach does not rise to the challenge of addressing the crippling and endemic sexual assault crisis afflicting our nation’s military.”
They continue, “For nearly a decade, the United States Senate has voiced its displeasure with and intent to reform the military’s handling of sexual misconduct among the armed forces. We will not accept an additional 6 to 9 years of waiting for these necessary changes to be implemented. The majority of Congress understands that this is not a problem our service members can wait years for us to solve; 66 Senators and 220 Representatives have agreed to sponsor the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act of 2021, legislation that would mandate implementation of the below reforms within six months of passage.”
Joining Gillibrand, Ernst and Grassley on this letter are Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). In the letter, the senators request a briefing outlining the Department of Defense’s methods of execution to achieve the following improvements in no later than six months:
- Move the decision to prosecute sexual assault and other serious crimes to an independent, trained, professional military prosecutor.
- Ensure the Department of Defense develops tactics, techniques, and procedures to support criminal investigators and military prosecutors’ sexual assault and domestic violence investigations.
- Survey and improve the physical security of military installations to increase safety in lodging and living spaces for service members.
- Increase and improve training and education on military sexual assault throughout our armed services.
Earlier this year, Gillibrand, Ernst and Grassley helped lead a new, bipartisan effort to prevent military sexual assault and hold perpetrators accountable. The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision to prosecute from the chain of command to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors. The bill also provides for several new prevention provisions such as more and better training for commanders and increased physical security measures, while ensuring that commanders still have the ability to provide strong leadership and ensure a successful command climate.
Gillibrand, Ernst and Grassley have secured over 60 bipartisan cosponsors for this legislation — the critical threshold needed for passage and successfully included it in the annual defense bill that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House companion bill also has 220 cosponsors, representing a majority of the House.