Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would change the way the Pentagon designates sexual assault prevention officers, adding a new level of accountability and scrutiny to the position after multiple Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) officers were reportedly accused of sexual assault in recent weeks. Under the legislation, SAPR officers would become a more prominent position in the military requiring more rigorous screening and certification.
"This bill represents a smart way to tackle this issue as part of a larger effort. Finding the best, most qualified personnel for a position responsible for preventing sexual assault is a matter of common-sense and will pay off as we work to address the military sexual assault crisis," said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. "We've seen one too many reports about sexual assaults in our armed services. We have a responsibility to act and we have a responsibility to do so now."
"Recent news reports make it clear that we must require a higher standard for those appointed to all Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) offices -- the very individuals charged with ensuring our men and women in uniform are safe from predators in their own ranks. This bipartisan legislation advances that goal and seeks to ensure individuals of the highest caliber are placed in these critical positions," said Senator Deb Fischer. "I commend my colleague, Senator Shaheen, for her leadership on this and look forward to working with her on this important issue."
The bill would specifically mandate that SAPR officers become "nominative" positions which designates a more prominent responsibility. Nominative positions are often considered the most significant, challenging and prestigious jobs within the military and applicants must complete a thorough screening and interview process for that classification. Currently, many SAPR positions are filled from an available pool of military personnel whose rotation date is close to that of the job opening. As a result, the prerequisites required to fill the positions are not as rigorous.
This legislation would require the personnel filling these positions to undergo a more demanding training and certification process before securing these positions. Transitioning SAPR jobs to a nominative process would also promote direct leadership involvement in the screening process and would result in only persons of the highest caliber who pass a rigorous review and application process would be tasked with SAPR responsibilities.
Last week, Senator Shaheen and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill called on Defense Secretary Hagel to implement this type of personnel review. The Pentagon recently released a report showing that 26,000 military personnel had been the victims of unwanted sexual contact in 2012.