WASHINGTON D.C. (WENY) — As part of her efforts to combat sexual assault in the armed forces, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand highlighted reforms in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act during a press conference. In the current year’s NDAA all judicial functions and prosecution duties have been removed from Commanders for covered offenses.
“Every year there are an estimated 35,900 service members who are sexually assaulted, but fewer than one quarter of survivors are willing to report that crime. That’s because many of them have no faith in the current military justice system. Commanders act as the judge and jury, instead of trained military independent lawyers,” said Gillibrand.
Thirteen offenses relating to sexual assault will no longer be under the authority of the chain of command within the armed forces. All claims specific to those 13 offenses, will now instead have to be sent to professional Judge Advocate General’s Corps meaning Commanders will no longer have the ability to grant immunity to suspects or reject investigations and/or a court martial.
Retired Colonel and former U.S. Air Force Chief Prosecutor from 2010-2014, Don Christensen was a part of the meeting and says the changes he, Gillibrand, and others are making to reform the military justice system has been going on for years.
“The confidence the military members have in the justice system is critical to our ability to have a lethal fighting force and these changes will go a long way to doing that,” said Christensen.
Gillibrand, who has been working on this issue since 2013, said that while last year’s defense bill did make some important changes, it didn’t go far enough. This year however, Gillibrand successfully fought to include a revised version of her Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA) in this year’s NDAA. This is part of her goal to, “professionalize the military justice system.”
“My MJIIPA would remove these residual powers from commanders and introduce it as an amendment to the Senate Armed Services Committee mark-up for the fiscal year 2023 NDAA,” said Gillibrand.
To learn more about Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act and National Defense Authorization Act, you can click here.