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by
Bridget Johnson

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November 20, 2013 - 2:07 pm

The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman stood fast against lawmakers trying to take sexual assault cases out of the hands of military commanders, stressing that the chain of command remains “indispensable” to solving the problem.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and her bipartisan coalition, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), are trying to get their language changing how sexual assault cases are prosecuted inserted into the defense reauthorization bill being debated on the floor this week.

Gillibrand and Cruz penned a column together advocating their proposal to pull cases out of the chain of command, which appeared in USA Today this morning. “According to the Defense Department, 3,374 cases of unwanted sexual contact were reported last year, resulting in just 302 trials and 238 convictions. Moreover, the Defense Department estimates there were nearly 23,000 additional cases of unwanted sexual contact that went unreported. That means, in total, there were 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact — a 37% increase over the previous year,” they wrote. “Such a substantial increase requires our immediate attention. That is especially true considering that many of these are very serious allegations, not mere complaints about inappropriate jokes or disagreeable verbal comments. More than half of the 2012 reported cases — 61% — cited in the DOD’s report involved serious assaults, such as rape, aggravated sexual assault, or non-consensual sodomy.”

“And the Inspector General for the Department of Defense has discovered disturbing problems with a portion of sexual assault cases that were pursued; more than 10% of the 501 cases examined from 2010 had significant deficiencies, lacking basic elements such as simple witness interviews,” Gillibrand and Cruz continued. “Strikingly, across the branches, a majority of service members — 74 percent of females and 60 percent of males — perceived barriers to reporting these crimes. And, that’s only among the soldiers who were willing to report.”

But Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) argued on the floor that the bill that passed out of committee — language objected to by Gillibrand and Cruz — includes new protections for sexual assault victims while not changing the military justice structure.

“These important reforms were the work of almost every member of the Armed Services Committee. The desire to remove this stain from our military is bipartisan and it is strong,” Levin said, adding that the “most basic reason” to oppose the Gillibrand amendment is “it removes a powerful tool from those who are indispensable to turning this problem around, our military commanders. Our military commanders are the indispensable tool to turn this around.”

Levin noted that he met with retired military women who said “the problem is not commanders.”

“The problem is a military culture, they told us that too often tolerates excessive drinking and barracks banter that borders on sexual harassment or crosses that line; that fails to recognize the existence of service members who appear to be ‘good soldiers’ but in fact are sexual predators; a culture that values unit cohesion to such an extent that those who report misconduct are more likely to be ostracized than respected,” he said. “None of these problems are unique to the military, but they are exacerbated in the military by the frequent rotation of military assignments, which can make it easier for predators to hide.”

“We cannot strengthen our efforts to prevent sexual assaults by reducing the likelihood of prosecution. We know from history, and from the facts, that that is the result of taking this decision away from the hands of commanders. We know of the 100 cases where other authorities, civilian authorities, have decided not to prosecute, but where the commanders then decided to pursue it anyway. That’s just in the last two years. And we don’t know of any cases that go in the other direction.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also vocally spoke against the Gillibrand amendment, saying, “The problems that you see in the military, they’re all over the country — they’re just talked about more in the military.”

Levin said he supports a substitute amendment from Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) that would further strengthen the bill’s reforms, including allowing victim input in the prosecution of perpetrators, extending the reforms to service academies, and allowing victims to challenge any subsequent discharge from service.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
The problem is females in combat units. Combat units exist to wage war. Waging war takes a certain amount of "testosterone"...which females don't have. If your military is nothing more than a "jobs" program...then by all means, recruit females. But if your military exists to fight and win wars...then you want the hardest-core males you can find.

All these efforts to treat sexual assault differently harm the fighting spirit of our Armed Forces. There is a cost to be paid. Are you willing to pay the cost of sending sub-standard combat units onto the battlefield? Just to be politically correct?

Our leaders are, apparently.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
It should still be prosecuted by the military, but the whole reporting and investigation process should be done by an authority outside of the chain of command.

Here's the problem: In the military, when something pops up like this, it makes your boss look bad. This negatively affects his career. He has an interest in just making this all go away.

So, the Military Police should have a special division just for this. There must also be immunity for the complainant, in the form of your chain of command being unable to question you about it. Think of it as a doctor's note. "I was down at the MP office. Here's my note."
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (13)
All Comments   (13)
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42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
We don't need the knuckleheads in congress tinkering with the UCMJ. Haven't they done enough harm to our military already; apparently not.

TommyTee is completely right on all his points.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
NYT has reported that 53% of the sexual assault cases are male on male.

That said, I don't think women should serve in combat units - their talents can be better used in other areas (like military intelligence and logistics).
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree and this is a misstep for Senator Cruz. He should do no bargaining with leftists like Gillibrand, she's bad news.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm pretty sure after reading this article that I have no idea what Cruz and Gillibrand are proposing. Did I miss something?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem is females in combat units. Combat units exist to wage war. Waging war takes a certain amount of "testosterone"...which females don't have. If your military is nothing more than a "jobs" program...then by all means, recruit females. But if your military exists to fight and win wars...then you want the hardest-core males you can find.

All these efforts to treat sexual assault differently harm the fighting spirit of our Armed Forces. There is a cost to be paid. Are you willing to pay the cost of sending sub-standard combat units onto the battlefield? Just to be politically correct?

Our leaders are, apparently.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
So much for the halcyon days of tabula rasa: The sheep will lay down with lions and all will be good in the neighborhood. Obviously the boys and girls and the switch hitters just can't get along, because it's in their nature or their nurture, or a combination of the two. If it's not the high testosterone preying on the curvacious estrogen, it's the predatory military culture that causes it all. Short of mass pre-frontal lobotomies or troops on thorazine instead of booze and tobacco, a Potemkin military, it's quite obvious this utopian social experiment has failed. With only 20, 10,9, and 6 being the female participation percentage rates in the air force, navy, army, and marines, it's probably a good thing there isn't gender parity and equal dying for equal pay in the military.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree with you 100% about a failed utopian social experiment. When I served 1967-1970 this wasn't an issue because women who served were did so in their own branch. Now that women have been integrated into the same units as males, the branches are experiencing the same problems as society in general, which could have been anticipated, but either wasn't or the probability was ignored. The military is not society, and it was a mistake to try to make it so.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Great point Scoggin to bring up the point of women in the past, had their own branch in each service and that it worked well. I had forgotten that because the Left never brings up that issue. Something that works isn't anything they want to have to deal with. They love chaos.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem is that the military continues to tolerate having sexual predators serve as COs.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
It should still be prosecuted by the military, but the whole reporting and investigation process should be done by an authority outside of the chain of command.

Here's the problem: In the military, when something pops up like this, it makes your boss look bad. This negatively affects his career. He has an interest in just making this all go away.

So, the Military Police should have a special division just for this. There must also be immunity for the complainant, in the form of your chain of command being unable to question you about it. Think of it as a doctor's note. "I was down at the MP office. Here's my note."
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm concerned that due process is going to go out the window, like it has for VAWA and the "college rape crisis", and the standard of evidence is going to be reduced to "She said."
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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