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Mr. TURNER of Ohio. I want to thank Mr. Bishop for his leadership on this and on the issues of our national security.
I am here today to speak in support of this year's National Defense Authorization Act and this rule. This bill is a reflection of the committee's aim to both support the defense of our Nation and of our men and women in uniform. Two provisions in this bill are of particular interest to me. One relates to the prevention of sexual assault in the military, and the other pertains to protecting the child custody rights of our deployed servicemembers.
As the chairman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, Joe Wilson has been a steadfast advocate for these issues. His commitment is reflected in this year's bill and in many more preceding it. I would also like to thank his professional staff, John Chapla and Jeanette James, who have both been instrumental in this legislation.
This year's bill contains several provisions that aim to improve military culture and climate as it relates to sexual assault. Included are provisions that require the disposition of sexual assault cases at a higher level authority than is currently required. It also requires the creation of special-victims units that specialize in the investigation of sexual assault cases. A sexual assault advisory council will be created, which will bring in experts to advise the Department of Defense and their Sexual Assault and Prevention Office on sexual assault policy. These provisions build upon the years of bipartisan committee work.
Today's military has sustained the longest war in our country's history and has done so with an all-volunteer force. Both men and women have left their families and children at home and have sacrificed their lives for our country in order to make the world a better and safer place. Yet many of these same servicemembers face the terror of sexual assault within their own ranks.
To combat this problem, we included a provision in a past National Defense Authorization Act to establish a sexual assault prevention office and to make victim advocates more accessible to our men and women who are affected by this terrible crime;
We made communications between victims and advocates privileged. In the past, these conversations could be used against them in court;
We mandated that the SAPRO director have the rank of a general officer in order to maintain the level of authority necessary to carry out the responsibilities inherent to the position;
We instituted a law requiring that military protective orders be made standing orders and that civilian authorities be notified when a military protective order is issued and affects off-base personnel;
Lastly, we have worked with the Department of Defense to create a policy that requires a general officer review of any denial of base transfer to victims of sexual assault.
It is our intent that these news laws empower sexual assault victims and make the armed services a safer place for all who serve. I want to thank Mary Lauterbach, from my community, who lost her daughter--murdered by a fellow marine after she made a sexual assault allegation.
Another issue is of child custody. Servicemembers risk their lives in support of contingency operations to keep our Nation safe. State courts should not be allowed to use a servicemember's prior deployments or the possibility of future deployments when making child custody determinations. The provision in this bill will amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and protect servicemembers against this injustice by providing national uniform standards. State laws differ on the question of whether deployment or the potential for deployment can be used as a criterion by courts, and many States have no laws at all.
I encourage the passage and support of this, and I thank Joe Wilson for the inclusion of these two important provisions.
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