Legislative Cornerstone

The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the Fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill makes sexual assault prevention and prosecution the “cornerstone of this legislation,” states the committee’s bill summary. As such, it “reforms” the Uniform of Code of Military Justice, stripping commanders of their authority to dismiss a finding by a court-martial. The HASC legislation also prohibits commanders from reducing guilty findings to a lesser offense and creates minimum sentencing guidelines—something that only exists in the military for crimes such as murder and espionage, states the summary. In addition, the legislation allows victims of sexual assault to apply for a permanent change of station or unit transfer and gives commanders the authority to remove or temporarily reassign service members accused of sexual assault. It also adds rape, sexual assault, or other sexual misconduct charges to the protected communications of service members. Finally, the bill directs the Government Accountability Office to review the Air Force’s corrective actions following the sexual misconduct scandal at JBSA-Lackland, Tex. On Tuesday, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh called sexual assaults in the military a “cancer” and vowed to do everything in his power to combat them. (See also Plague of Sexual Assaults.)