Sexual Assault Measure to be Dropped from Military Bill, Keeping Cases in Chain of Command

Thursday, June 13, 2013
Sen. Carl Levin

A longtime member of the U.S. Senate whose committee oversees the military wants to pass a less stringent measure addressing the problem of sexual assaults and the lack of prosecutions in the armed forces.


Following the political uproar over rising numbers of rapes and examples of commanders throwing out punishment rulings for sexual assaults, legislation was introduced that would prevent generals and admirals from being able to interfere and overrule in such cases and, instead, leave it solely to military prosecutors to handle.


But that bill, sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), hit a wall in the Senate Armed Services Committee, where its chairman, Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, wants to keep the chain of command intact when soldiers and officers are convicted of sexual assault.


Currently, senior officers have the authority to toss convictions coming out of military courtrooms.


Levin told the media that he prefers another approach “because you’ve got to rely on the chain of command to change the culture, and so I don’t want to take away a club they have, which is the threat of prosecution or going to a court-martial.”


The Michigan lawmaker plans to remove Gillibrand’s measure—which has 27 co-sponsors, including four Republicans—from a defense spending bill and replace it with one that would require a senior military officer to review decisions by commanders who decline to prosecute sexual assault cases.


Levin’s plan would change the current system, but would keep prosecution of sexual assault cases within the chain of command, which the military prefers. His proposed bill would also make it a federal crime to retaliate against anyone who reports a sexual assault.


Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) called Levin’s decision “outrageous.”


“They basically embrace the status quo here,” Boxer, a co-sponsor of Gillibrand’s bill, told The New York Times.


Another reform measure is moving through the U.S. House that would toughen penalties for sexual assault crimes in the military and make it difficult for commanders to overturn convictions.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Sexual-Assault Measure to Be Cut From Military Bill (by Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times)

Senate Armed Services Chair To Propose Alternative Sexual Assault Prevention Bill (by Kumar Ramanathan, ThinkProgress)

In Senate Testimony, Military Leaders Reject Calls to Remove Sexual Assault Cases from Chain of Command (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Air Force Version of Punishing Sexual Assault: No Promotion (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Court to Decide if Military Rape Victims Can Sue Defense Dept. (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment