Senator Lisa Murkowski today joined a bipartisan coalition of her colleagues to kick off a final two week push to create an independent, objective and non-biased military justice system -- through the Military Justice Improvement Act -- as the Senate is expected to debate the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before Thanksgiving.
The legislation that Murkowski co-sponsored in May would eliminate many obstacles that numerous victims of military sexual assault have described in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them due to the bias and inherent conflicts of interest posed by the military chain of command's current sole decision-making power.
At a press conference earlier today, Murkowski was joined by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) discussing how the problem has been acknowledged publicly by the Pentagon brass for decades, but no hard solutions have been enacted or created that provide a better environment for victims -- this bill would take the decision out of the hands of the Commanding Officer and allow an independent Judge Advocate General to determine whether a court case should proceed.
In discussing the acknowledgements of military officials on the topic, Murkowski said:
"There is a notion that somehow or other our military has addressed this issue because they are saying the right words. Because they have said there is a "Commitment to Zero Tolerance' here. I have heard it and all my colleagues have heard it from every General who has chosen to visit in the last six months.
"They say "We've had our eyes opened wide.' Well, they've had those wide eyes for twenty years now. Instead of seeing a change in the attitude, a change in the direction, so we don't see survivors like we see here writing letters saying "Please can't you do something to affect real change.'
"The words aren't solving the problem
"In many of the letters that have been received, they say things like "This has been a persistent problem.' Brigadier General Sutton describes it as a "sorrowful history of inattention and ineptitude,' an "inadequate response to sexual assault' or "DOD's time to solve the problem on its own has expired.'
"There's a recognition we're not talking about something current. We're talking about a historic problem, a historic tragedy that needs to be rectified and corrected. This bill is a shake-up. Senator Gillibrand, thank you for working so aggressively to shake it up because the words have not helped the survivors."