Competing Amendments Look to Combat Military Sexual Assault

Senators have introduced a host of competing amendments to the Fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill aimed at curbing sexual assaults in the military. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and a bipartisan team of senators released a letter Nov. 19, signed by 26 retired generals, admirals, commanders, and other military leaders supporting an amendment that if approved would remove commander’s power to make decisions about cases involving sexual assault and instead give that authority to an independent prosecutor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tweeted Nov. 19 that he publicly supports the legislation. Meanwhile, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) continues to push for a competing bill, which would remove the commander’s ability to change or dismiss court-martial convictions in cases of sexual assault. However, McCaskill’s amendment does not completely remove commanders’ authority over sexual assault cases. Back in June, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) authored, along with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.), legislation that would provide sexual assault victims a trained military lawyer to guide them throughout the legal process. (Click here to continue to full report) (See also Debating the Debate Process and Plague of Sexual Assaults)