Early this morning, the House Armed Services Committee overwhelmingly passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014 by a bipartisan vote of 59-2. Rep. Noem voted for the legislation, which provides valuable funding, policy and accountability for the Armed Forces.
This bill also includes sweeping reforms to sexual assault prevention and prosecution in the military. Rep. Noem successfully secured several provisions to improve military sexual assault investigations, standardize sexual assault prevention training and require the Pentagon to increase scrutiny of those selected to fill sexual assault prevention positions in the military.
"This legislation not only bolsters our national security, but also the security of our men and women serving in the military," said Rep. Noem. "Working on comprehensive and meaningful ways to bring an end to sexual assault in the military was a top priority for me, and I'm proud of the work the committee did to address this issue. It is also our duty as a country, and as a Congress, to ensure our armed forces are ready and equipped for challenges that may lie ahead. I will continue to fight for our troops as the NDAA moves forward."
Rep. Noem championed three main sexual assault prevention provisions in the House version of the NDAA, all of which were included in the final version approved by the Committee. They include:
* Improved Investigation of Sex-Related Offenses. Rep. Noem advocates a policy change that would direct the Secretary of Defense to standardize recommendations by military criminal investigative organizations as to whether a sex-related offense is founded or unfounded. This change would aim to give military commanders better information in the form of an expert opinion when proceeding with prosecuting sexual assault crimes.
* Qualifications for Sexual Assault Prevention/Support Personnel. Rep. Noem believes the Secretary of Defense should be required to establish selection criteria for individuals in sexual assault prevention related positions. Currently, there are not any specific qualifications for these positions. Changes in this specific area are all the more important in light of recently publicized instances of military personnel in sexual assault prevention/support positions being accused of a sexual offenses themselves.
* Basic Training Standards for Sexual Assault. Rep. Noem believes the Department of Defense should be directed to develop uniform training plans and materials for sexual assault prevention. Currently the individual branches of the military do their own training plans for sexual assault, highlighting the need for consistency among all branches. Rep. Noem supports a basic bar for training across all branches.