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Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee - Markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014


Location: Washington, DC

Senator KAINE. Thank you, Mr. Chair. One thing I feel very confident about sitting around this table is that everyone who is here, everyone who serves on this committee, believes the victims, believes the victims who have testified, and believes the victims who have been reported on in the surveys we have received. I do not think that distinguishes anyone on this committee from each other. The testimony has been harrowing. I was at the Personnel Subcommittee hearing and at the lengthy hearing last week. Every last member of this committee, Democratic and Republicans, believes
the victims.

We all believe that we have a major problem. We all believe that the problem of sexual misconduct is a stain on the military. And because it is a stain on the military, it is a stain on the Nation. We are short of heroes right now, and the military is as good as
we get. And when our heroes have a problem like this that is so serious, it is not just a stain on the military, it is a stain on our country.

A positive development is that there is also much agreement on this committee about a whole series of significant and major reforms that we need to take. And for that I give credit to all my colleagues, but especially to the Personnel Subcommittee chair, Senator Gillibrand. We are agreeing, I believe, or poised to agree on a package of significant reforms to reporting, prevention, training, recruiting, anti-retaliation measures, investigation, prosecution, punishment, counseling, the provision of VA benefits, and protection for whistleblowers. We are poised to agree to a whole series of what I think are significant reforms. There is only one major policy disagreement, and that policy disagreement is should we remove from military command the decision to prosecute serious offenses, remove that decision to prosecute serious offenses from the chain of command. And for two reasons I do not think we should, and that is why I am supporting the chairman's amendment.

First, and this has been covered pretty significantly, I do not think removing this issue from the chain of command is the best way to fix the problem of sexual misconduct. I do not believe we are going to fix it by taking responsibility away from commanders.
I think we need to give resources and tools to commanders. I think we need to force the chain of command to take this more seriously. We will not solve it by reducing their authority. We will solve it by increasing their authority and increasing our expectations.

If we take this power away from the chain of command, we send the message not just that you are doing a bad job. We are sending that message with the package of amendments we are about to embrace. We send the message we have no confidence you can fix this. That is the message we send if we take it away from the chain of
command. We have confidence in 12 years of war, the longest period of war that our Nation has ever been in, we have had confidence in them making decisions. We have confidence in the chain of command to two ongoing cultural changes: the implementation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the implementation of the recent decision
to remove barriers to women serving in combat positions. We are counting on the chain of command in those instances to change the culture. To send a signal of no confidence, we do not think you can get this right, I do not think is the right thing to do.

Second, I support the chairman's amendment because I think it maintains the focus on the issue, which is sexual misconduct. The proposed pre-amendment is to remove from the military chain of command the decision to initiate prosecution in all serious non-
military offenses: murder, larceny, robbery, forgery, bad checks, arson, extortion, burglary, housebreaking, perjury, fraud against the United States. The proposal is to remove from the chain of command the decision to initiate prosecution in all of those offenses.

Now, there are very smart people around this table--lawyers, prosecutors, those who have served in the military. But however smart we are, we have not heard one bit of evidence to suggest that the chain of command is not capable of handling all those kinds of offenses that I have just gone through. We have heard ample evidence about sexual misconduct. We have heard no evidence that the chain of command cannot handle these other serious offenses.

And so, to act on the basis of no evidence and pull all of this out of the military chain of command, we would lose the focus on the problem. The problem is sexual misconduct, both of the criminal variety, but also of hostile workplace, sexual discrimination. We have to solve all of it, but we will only solve it if we keep the focus on what is the problem.

And so, for those two reasons, we cannot fix this without the chain of command, and we should not try to fix problems that we have not yet heard exist. I support the chairman's amendment.

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