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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. TSONGAS. Mr. Chairman, I value my partnership with Congressman Turner as cochairs of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus and with the legislation we have crafted on combating the horrific crime of sexual assault in the military.

This year, our work together on the Better Enforcement for Sexual Assault Free Environments Act, otherwise known as BE SAFE, led to its incorporation into the NDAA before us today. However, I must take exception to the amendment before us.

I do agree that we must make sure that all individuals who are convicted of sexual assault in the military are punished with confinement--absolutely--but there are many different ideas about the best way to do that. Some argue that a better approach would be a system similar to Federal sentencing guidelines, and that's why Mr. Turner and I wrote a provision in the defense authorization before us that requires the Secretary of Defense to provide Congress with a report on sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentencing provisions under the UCMJ.

Before we make additional changes to the UCMJ, we need to see this report. Since we've introduced the BE SAFE Act, we have heard from many groups. One letter from the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence says:

Long mandatory minimum sentences can have a chilling effect on reporting and prosecuting sexual assault in the civilian system, and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence does not recommend them.

We have to listen to these various voices. We cannot afford to take this risk in the military. Reporting of sexual assault in the military already happens at abysmal rates. We need more reporting, not less. Less reporting equals fewer prosecutions, which ultimately will fail to deter the perpetrators from carrying out this heinous crime.

I urge a ``no'' vote on this amendment.

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