In the wake of new allegations of sexual violence allegedly carried out by a Soldier assigned to sexual assault prevention at Fort Hood, Tex., U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) today introduced legislation to require the Department of Defense to establish strict new criteria for who can serve in such positions throughout the U.S. Armed Forces.
"As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is to have strong policies in place to combat sexual assault,"said Klobuchar. "While we have made some progress in establishing new policies to address sexual assault in the ranks, recent events are a chilling reminder that we need to do more to address this horrible crime. This legislation would help make sure sexual assault prevention personnel are qualified and effective. I will continue to work to ensure offenders are prosecuted and make sure victims have the support they need and deserve."
"Now is the time for our military leaders to reevaluate who is being put into these positions,"McCaskill said. "Are folks filling these jobs who aren't succeeding elsewhere? Or are these jobs being given to our best leaders? These allegations call for a review and possible changes to personnel and the training they receive. There is a clear need to change our military justice system to better hold perpetrators accountable and protect survivors of sexual assault."
Last week, Klobuchar and McCaskill urged Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to take action to strengthen sexual assault prevention programs in the military. In their letter, the senators called on him to elevate the rank of the personnel assigned to lead sexual assault prevention and response programs and to ensure the leaders have the necessary experience and qualifications. Under the senators' legislation, the Secretary of Defense will be required to:
· Review the sufficiency of training, qualifications, and experience of personnel responsible for sexual assault prevention and response within the military services, as well as current training and certification programs for these personnel.
· Take corrective action in regard to any personnel assigned to sexual assault prevention and response duties who are deemed to lack the necessary training, qualifications, or experience. Such corrective action may include re-training, re-certification, or reassignment to duties unrelated to sexual assault prevention and response.
· Promulgate any necessary regulations setting minimum levels for training, qualifications, and experience necessary for military and civilian personnel responsible for sexual assault prevention and response within the military services.
Klobuchar also recently introduced bipartisan legislation to crack down on sexual assault in the military. The Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2013, introduced with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), would revise the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to require the Secretary of Defense to retain restricted reports of sexual assault for at least 50 years. This removes the language that would have required that the report be retained only at the request of the filing service member, allowing for automatic retention of the reports. The bill also would establish preferred policy regarding the disposition of sexual assault cases through courts martial, and prohibit service in the Armed Forces by individuals previously convicted of a sexual offense. Earlier this year, Klobuchar received an award from the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) for her efforts to support military sexual assault victims.
The U.S. Army announced last night that allegations of pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates are being brought against a sergeant who works in Fort Hood's Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention and Response program. The Soldier had been assigned as an Equal Opportunity Advisor and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program coordinator when the allegations surfaced. The new revelations come after the Air Force officer in charge of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response was arrested outside a Virginia bar for sexual battery.
In response to a recent sexual assault case at Aviano Air Base in Italy, McCaskill grilled military leaders in several Senate hearings and has introduced legislation that would curtail the authority of military commanders to dismiss jury convictions against sex offenders. McCaskill's bill would also require written justifications when sentences are lessened or commuted.