U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a Senate Armed Services Committee member, today announced final Congressional passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, which includes her legislation requiring that any service member convicted of a sexual assault be processed for discharge from the military. The bill now heads to the President's desk for his signature.
"Our brave service members answer a call higher than any other to defend our nation," said Senator Gillibrand. "Not only does sexual assault do unconscionable harm to the victim, but it also destabilizes the military and threatens our national security. By codifying this common-sense measure into law, we will hold perpetrators accountable and ensure that there is no tolerance for sexual assault in our armed forces."
In 2011, more than 3,000 military sexual assaults were reported, with the Department of Defense's own estimates putting the actual number of assaults closer to 19,000. Currently, all service branches have varied policies when it comes to processing and punishing a convicted sex offender. Despite these policies, 36 percent of convicted sex offenders remained in the Armed Forces in Fiscal Year 2011, according to the most recent Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.
Gillibrand's provision would create a uniform standard among all service branches, requiring the Army and Air Force to adopt the Navy's policy mandating that a service member convicted of a sexual assault be processed for a discharge. The service member would get due process, but such a process would be required and the decision would be made by an impartial group of officers.
The legislation was co-sponsored by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).