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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, today, Senator Fischer and I, rise today to speak about the alarming crisis of sexual assault within our nation's military.

Three particularly disturbing cases have arisen in recent weeks. First, an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel was arrested for sexual battery, and an Army first sergeant is alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct at Fort Flood. Finally, the Army also relieved a lieutenant colonel from his post for a domestic dispute that violated a stalking protection order. What is most concerning is that all were responsible for either handling sexual assault cases or managing policies pertaining to military sexual assault.

We have seen three incidents of this kind in a period of two weeks. The fact that the cases involved multiple services speaks volumes to the need to elevate all Sexual Assault Prevention Response, SAPR, jobs to the level of importance that they deserve. Given the challenge of addressing the sexual assault crisis, we need the best and brightest taking on these jobs in our military today.

We should take steps to ensure that these jobs are on par with those that the military values most. This will address one of the primary factors at the heart of the issue--the need for cultural change in the military. It starts with increasing the value of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response positions and enforcing a rigorous application, intense record review and an interview process that screens applicants prior to selection for those duties.

While we appreciate Secretary Hagel's efforts to ensure that candidates for these jobs are rescreened, retrained and recertified, the bigger issue is making sure that there is a robust process in place to get the highest caliber candidates into all Sexual Assault Prevention and Response jobs at the start. We firmly believe that changes to the military justice system are critical, but we also believe that changing military culture will require transforming the process by which we fill these positions. It will also require holding the leadership accountable for selecting those individuals.

That is why, today, we are introducing legislation that will make the highest-level Sexual Assault Prevention and Response positions nominative ones.

Nominative jobs, also referred to as ``high visibility,'' are given that designation because of the caliber of person needed to fill them. These are some of the most significant, challenging and highly desired positions in the military. Transitioning SAPR jobs to a nominative process enables direct leadership involvement from the commander, who would now hand-pick the person to fill the role. Furthermore, there is a level of prestige that comes with taking nominative jobs because they are recognized as premiere jobs within the organization. Applicants know up front that these jobs will be challenging and career-enhancing. As such, only the best of the best need apply.

This crisis has reached a breaking point that requires more than the traditional process for filling military positions. We can no longer be comfortable placing the service member in a SAPR position solely based upon individual career paths and personal aspirations. As proven over the last several weeks, there are holes in that process. We need to enact a stringent application, record review and interview process that holds leaders accountable for SAPR job selection and increases the likelihood of getting the best possible applicants.

There is a sense of urgency surrounding military sexual assault that requires answers now. Secretary Hagel was correct in saying, "Sexual assault has no place in the United States military'' and that ``the American people, including our service members, should expect a culture of absolutely no tolerance for this deplorable behavior.'' We could not agree more, but we are also of the belief that the change in culture with respect to sexual assault will require more than education and awareness training. Our military needs to develop a culture that gives preeminence to jobs related to sexual assault prevention.

We know that military leaders share our concerns and appreciate the leadership demonstrated thus far. We trust that they will also acknowledge the benefits of making SAPR jobs nominative positions. We hope my colleagues in the Senate will take up and pass this legislation as we attempt to address the scourge that is sexual assault in our military.

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