Addressing the gutting of bipartisan military justice reforms by House and Senate Armed Services leadership, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued the following statement:
“As sexual assault survivor advocates warned would happen for months, House and Senate Armed Services leadership have gutted our bipartisan military justice reforms behind closed doors, doing a disservice to our service members and our democracy. Committee leadership has ignored the will of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a majority of the House in order to do the bidding of the Pentagon. This disregards the calls of service members, veterans and survivors who have fought for an impartial and independent military justice system. Worse yet, DoD successfully undercut Defense Secretary Austin’s proclaimed commitment to removing sex crimes from the chain of command and ignored President Biden’s public support for removing felonies from the chain of command.
“Despite claims otherwise, the NDAA does not remove the convening authority from military commanders. Removing that authority from commanders is critical. To quote Secretary Austin’s own panel, “The DoD Office of the Special Victim Prosecutor structure must be, and must be seen as, independent of the chains of command of the victim and of the accused all the way through the Secretaries of the Military Departments. Anything less will likely be seen as compromising what is designed to be an independent part of the military justice process, thus significantly undermining this recommendation…Finally, because of the breadth and depth of the lack of trust by junior enlisted Service members in commanders, it was determined that the status quo or any variation on the status quo that retained commanders as disposition authorities in sexual harassment, sexual assault, and related cases would fail to offer the change required to restore confidence in the system.”
“This bill represents a major setback on behalf of service members, women and survivors in particular. However, we will not stop seeking true military justice reforms for our brave service members and I will continue to call for an up or down floor vote.”