U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, a former courtroom prosecutor of sex crimes and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today met with Major General Margaret Woodword, who heads a newly revamped Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. McCaskill questioned Woodward-who was named to her new position earlier this year after the high-profile arrest of the office's previous leader on charges of sexual battery- about how the Air Force is protecting survivors and holding perpetrators accountable, and secured a promise from Woodward that the General's office would be a key partner in implementing historic, aggressive reforms currently being debated in the Senate to stem military sexual assaults.
"General Woodward has her work cut out for her," said McCaskill, who helped shape the host of reforms approved last month by the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We had a good discussion about what she's doing and what Congress needs to do to make critically needed headway on sexual assault prevention and prosecution. And I let her know that if we're successful in getting these provisions enacted into law, as I expect we will be, then I expect her to be a partner in implementing these aggressive reforms."
McCaskill and Woodward discussed the recent case at Aviano Air Force Base in Italy, in which an Air Force General overturned the jury verdict of a soldier convicted of sexual assault. McCaskill has incorporated a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that would prevent commanders from similar actions in the future. They also discussed other historic reforms McCaskill has added to the defense bill and what strategies would be most effective moving forward.
Woodward has been in the Air Force since 1983, and has participated in and commanded in operations Just Cause, Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Woodward led the investigation of Air Force training in the wake of a sexual assault scandal at Lackland Air Force Base.
McCaskill, a former courtroom prosecutor, has relentlessly fought to combat sexual assaults in the military. Last month, a Senate panel voted to approve a number of historic reforms addressing sexual assault, including bipartisan, bicameral provisions by McCaskill that will significantly boost accountability for perpetrators and protections for survivors.