Senators Kelly, Gillibrand, Ernst, Grassley Introduce Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act

DoD’s Most Recent Report Estimates Almost 21,000 Service Members Were Sexually Assaulted In 2018 Despite Repeated Efforts To End Scourge Of Sexual Harassment And Assault In The Military

Bipartisan Military Justice Reform Legislation Would Create Impartial, Fair, And Accountable Military Justice System For Sexual Assault And Other Serious Crimes and Provide Additional Prevention Measures

Today, Senator Mark Kelly stood alongside a bipartisan group of Senators and military sexual assault advocates to introduce the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act. The military justice reform bill, sponsored by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision to prosecute from the chain of command to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors. It also provides for several new prevention provisions such as more and better training for commanders and increased physical security measures, while ensuring that commanders still have the ability to provide strong leadership and ensure a successful command climate. 

“We owe it to our service members to address head on the problem of sexual assault in the military. Every service member should expect to be treated with respect by their peers, by their commanding officers, and, should it be necessary, by the military justice system. These bipartisan reforms will move us closer to making that a reality,” said Senator Kelly. 

“Well I’m glad to say today that I don’t have to be silent anymore. The Military Justice Improvement and Increased Prevention Act will help ensure that no more survivors or military families will have to go through what I went through. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and events like today shine bright on the scourge of military sexual assault,” said Amy Marsh, survivor and Arizonan.

One in 16 women in the military reported being groped, raped, or otherwise sexually assaulted in 2018, the most recent year data has been published by the Department of Defense (DoD). DoD data also show there were nearly 21,000 instances of sexual assault  a massive increase over the 14,900 estimated in the previous 2016 survey. The number of women in the military who experienced sexual assault increased by 50%, from 8,600 in FY2016 to 13,000 in FY2018. 

The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act would take critical steps to create a more professional and transparent military justice system for serious crimes — including rape and sexual assault, murder, manslaughter, child endangerment, child pornography, and negligent homicide — and address the need for sexual assault prevention. Specifically, the legislation would: 

  • Move the decision on whether to prosecute serious crimes to independent, trained, and professional military prosecutors, while leaving misdemeanors and uniquely military crimes within the chain of command. By moving this work off of the commander’s plate, it will empower commanders to focus on mission critical activities—while specifically preserving the authorities that a commander needs to provide strong leadership and a successful command climate.
  • Ensure the Department of Defense supports criminal investigators and military prosecutors through the development of unique skills needed to properly handle investigations and cases related to sexual assault and domestic violence. 
  • Require the Secretary of Defense to survey and improve the physical security of military installations – including locks, security cameras, and other passive security measures – to increase safety in lodging and living spaces for service members. 
  • Increase, and improve training and education on military sexual assault throughout our armed services. This training would help shift the culture in the military and ensure that the armed services can enforce a no-tolerance zone for sexual assault and other grievous crimes.

The Gillibrand legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Angus King (I-ME), Michael Braun (R-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Rand Paul (R-KY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT),Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act is endorsed by VFW, IAVA, Vietnam Veterans of America, Protect our Defenders, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, SWAN, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), Common Defense, Veterans Recovery Project.