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Providing for Further Consideration of H.R. 1960, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. TURNER. We have a significant problem of sexual assaults in the military, and this bill addresses many of the issues that we know legislatively will help both change the culture and change the environment in the military.

Recent surveys indicate that over 28,000 people have indicated that they have been sexually assaulted in the military, but slightly fewer than 3,000 are willing to

come forward and actually ask that their perpetrators be prosecuted. When you look at that number further, the survey indicates that 62 percent of those who came forward indicated that they felt they were persecuted in the workplace for having done so.

Many victims of sexual assault in the military report that they have been re-victimized, that they, in fact, fear the system, and that there is a sense that if one reports a sexual assault that it will negatively impact one's career and perhaps even put one at risk for further violence.

What we have tried to do in this bill on a bipartisan basis, in working with Niki Tsongas--my cochair of the Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus--and in working with Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Smith, is to look at ways in which the commander's role can be restricted and to require that the decisionmaking on sexual assaults be pushed up the chain of command, and to instill upon the entire system an evaluation process so that those who are making decisions are held accountable for those decisions.

We have taken away from the commander the ability to set aside a conviction for sexual assault, and we have added a mandatory minimum so that, if you commit a sexual assault, you are out of the military. If there is an inappropriate relationship between a trainee and a trainer, you are out of the military.

We tried to make certain in this that we had bipartisan consensus. Now, there are those who say that we need a whole new judicial system in order to be able to address sexual assault, but, in fact, the judicial system hasn't been the failure; the chain of command has been the failure, and we have addressed that by restricting the authority of the chain of command by requiring decisions be pushed up the chain of command and by imposing criteria of holding them accountable.

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Mr. TURNER. Mr. Speaker, there are two things that I think are important to note about the Speier amendment. First is that the author of the amendment is actually a full member of the Armed Services Committee and chose not to offer this amendment in the Armed Services Committee where there could have been unlimited debate on the substance of the amendment; instead choosing to offer it in this more limited format where there were hundreds of amendments and certainly limited time and issues of great import.

Also, it is cast in the light of the fact that you have bipartisan, full support for the provisions that are in our bill that do address sexual assault. The second thing that is important about the Speier amendment is that, as the author noted, there had been debate on this in the Senate. And in that debate, in fact, it was rejected--the structure that was being proposed in the Speier amendment. So we already have the Senate's view, and we also have a bipartisan view of this House on what needs to be done. And we share with the author the absolute commitment that this needs to be addressed.

The manner in which we've done it, again on a bipartisan basis, is by moving it up the chain of command and restricting the chain of command. No more can a commander, by their signature, set aside a conviction for sexual assault. No more can someone who's convicted of a sexual assault stay in the military. We will never have another victim who has to report that after a conviction of a perpetrator for sexual assault, that they were forced to salute their attacker. That attacker will be out.

Now, there is more that we can do. In fact, I want to thank the Rules Committee for having ruled in order my amendment, the Turner amendment, that would also include 2 years of incarceration along with the mandatory minimum of being thrown out. I would encourage everyone to support the Turner amendment that actually would like to increase the penalties beyond what we've done.

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