Despite the support of nearly 50 other lawmakers, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has failed to obtain the votes necessary to pass her proposed military sexual assault reform. The measure, which required 60 votes to pass, fell short by only 10 votes in the effort for its inclusion in annual defense authorization bill.
As Military Times reports, the measure called for the use of independent, civilian prosecutors to try sexual assault charges instead of judge advocates within the chain of command. Senator Gillibrand, who has been concerned about the Pentagon's retaliation statistics surrounding reporting and prosecuting these crimes among the ranks, has strongly asserted that the measure would bring much needed impartiality to the court-martial system.
The proposed measure, however, has not been popular with all lawmakers. Fellow Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri opposed the measure, asserting that removing military commanders from the criminal justice process clouds accountability for fostering a safer environment for military members. "Every aspect of the chain of command is responsible," McCaskill told the press. "It is their job to train troops, to maintain good order and discipline to prevent rapes and crimes being committed under their command, and to punish retaliation."
UNCLEAR IF PROGRESS IS BEING MADE
Senator Gillibrand, who sponsored another similar and narrowly-defeated measure in the Senate last year, warns that Congress' new interest in preventing sexual crimes in the military might not be strong enough to make a difference. In the effort to pass this years' measure, she’s cited that, according to the Pentagon's numbers, the average rate of assaults has not changed in four years—a troubling total of 52 new cases a day.
"American military, if they do these reforms, will have fewer dangerous criminals and far more heroes," Senator Gillibrand told the Senate before the vote earlier this week. The brave men and women we send to war to keep us safe deserve nothing less than a justice system equal to their sacrifice."
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