Defense Secretary Will Back A Seismic Shift In Prosecuting Military Sex Assault Cases
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of NPR
Posted: June 28th, 2021
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced he will support changes to the military justice system that would take sexual assault cases away from the chain of command and let independent military lawyers handle them. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has long pushed for legislation on the issue, praised Austin's move but [said] that it doesn't go far enough. Austin said he will present President Biden with a series of recommendations aiming to "finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military." It's a seismic shift that requires amending the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which no other secretary of defense has been willing to do. Austin's announcement follows a report by the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, whose mandate from Biden was to find solutions to improve accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support involved in such cases. The Pentagon has long resisted any outside interference. In studying the issue for several years, Gillibrand said, "We recognized that there's a lot of bias in the military justice system." She noted that the rate of sexual assaults in the military continues to grow, but relatively few cases go to trial or end in convictions. A 2020 report from the Defense Department indicates unrestricted reports of sexual assaults in the military have doubled, while the rate of prosecution and conviction has been halved since 2013.