U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today announced that her legislation to help fight sexual assault in the military was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill, which passed the Senate Armed Services Committee, includes Klobuchar's provisions to require the Secretary of Defense to retain reports of sexual assault for at least 50 years to help victims pursue justice; make it easier for service members to report abuse; and strengthen military sexual assault prevention programs.
"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 is critical to help fight military sexual assault and I will continue to work to ensure offenders are prosecuted and make sure victims have the support they need and deserve."
This yearKlobuchar has led several pieces of legislation to help fight sexual assault in the military. The following provisions were included in the National Defense Authorization Act:
Provisions from the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2013, which Klobuchar introduced with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would 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. Also included in the NDAA is a requirement that the disposition of substantiated sexual-related offenses be noted in personnel records, which will help ensure that commanders are aware of potential repeat offenders.
Provisions from legislation Klobuchar introduced with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to make it easier for service members to report cases of abuse by strengthening existing military whistleblower protection laws to ensure that victims of sexual crimes are protected from punishment for reporting sexual assault. The legislation aims to address the fact that many cases of sexual assault go unreported, often due to service members' fear of retaliation or compromising their career. The legislation would add sexual assault and other sexual misconduct offenses to the list of violations for which communications to members of Congress of the inspector general are protected. The bill also prohibits retaliatory action, and subjects any retaliatory action to DOD Inspector General investigation.
Provisions from legislation Klobuchar introduced with McCaskill to enhance military sexual assault prevention programs by strengthening the criteria for sexual assault prevention programs. Specifically the bill would require the Secretary of Defense to review the training, qualifications and experience of personnel responsible for sexual assault prevention and response within the armed services. The bill would also require personnel lacking the necessary qualifications to be subjected to reassignment or re-training certification. In addition, the Secretary of Defense would update the current training and certification policies in place for military sexual assault response personnel and set minimum levels of training, qualification, and experience across the military services.
In recent years there has been an increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military. The Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military report shows that the number of sexual assaults reported by members of the military rose from 3,192 to 3,374 in 2012, and the Department estimates that as many as 26,000 service members were assaulted, up from 19,300 estimated in 2010. It also reveals a 1.7% increase in active duty servicewomen experiencing unwanted sexual contact and a 6% increase in reported sexual assaults since 2010. Klobuchar has met with White House officials and other Senate and House members to discuss ways to fight sexual assault in the military. Klobuchar also met with Major General Gary Patton, the Director of DOD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) to discuss the report and initiatives to combat sexual assault in the military.