The Guardian reports – “The Senate approved a $630bn measure authorizing next year’s Pentagon budget that aims to crack down on military sexual assault and eases restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantánamo Bay.
The bill, approved on an 84-15 vote late Thursday, provides about $80bn for the Afghanistan war, but stopped short of a sweeping measure that would have removed commanders from the military justice system on sexual assault cases.
But the new overhaul mandated in the Senate bill, and unopposed by the Pentagon, would make it harder for commanders to override or unduly influence the military justice system.
Under the bill, commanders can no longer overturn sexual assault convictions, as happened in March when the Third Air Force commander unilaterally threw out a conviction for a favored lieutenant colonel found guilty of groping a sleeping woman.
That case prompted the now-defeated call to remove sexual assault cases from the uniform code of military justice altogether.
But the new measures that passed, sponsored by Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, would give sexual-assault survivors new and independent legal counsel; force a dishonorable discharge for sexual-assault convicts; institute a civilian review for cases that a military prosecutor opts not to bring; and adds criminal measures for retaliating against service members who report their assault.
An estimated 26,000 service members experienced rape or other sexual assault in 2012, according to Pentagon statistics released in May, a significant rise from the previous report in 2010, yet only 3,374 cases were reported to authorities. A Pentagon study last year found widespread fear, particularly amongst mid-career officers, that reporting sexual assault would lead to reprisal.
After a long history of institutional denial, Pentagon officials in recent years have acknowledged that sexual assault is a full-blown crisis. A series of high-profile commanders, including the deputy commander of the army’s storied 82nd Airborne and the air force sexual-assault prevention chief himself, faced criminal charges for sexual abuse. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel now holds a weekly meeting at the Pentagon to receive updates about turning the tide of sexual assault in the ranks.
“Today represents a huge win for victims of sexual assault, and for justice in America’s armed forces, but this is no finish line,” McCaskill said.”
Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/20/congress-passes-ndaa-defense-budget-sexual-assault-reform
Food for thought: It looks like Congress is a day late and a dollar short. Military commanders will never give up their power and will continue to punish victims (whistle blowers), no matter how much money Congress pours into trying to make sexual assault and rape victims feel safer in the military.
Wow, go figure. Those who are paid to provide “security” for our country are getting away with raping and assaulting our young sons and daughters. And Congress or President Obama has yet to put an end to it! Money is not going to fix the problem, better legislation will!! Wasn’t it President Johnson who created this problem, when he granted military commanders (in the 60s) authorization to manage its own, “race relation issues”, at the time it was considered “equal employment opportunities”.
I joined the Navy in the late 80s at the age of eighteen and experienced both racial and sexual discrimination throughout my 20-year military career. Instead of the military improving its racial, gender and sexual orientation “issues”, it’s obviously gotten worse!
Instead of meeting one of its primary missions, which is to foster a working environment “free of discrimination, sexual harassment, assault or rape”, top brass chooses to turn a blind eye and/or cover it up. But isn’t this what MEN do?, when they “look out for themselves?! I had to learn this the hard way after they punished me for being a whistle blower.
As many times that I would witness them cheating on their wives, frequenting “red light districts” overseas (and at home), having affairs with co-workers (of both the same and opposite sex), I still remain the only “single” person charged, fined and sent to prison for “adultery”. Now this is one of the most hypocritical laws in the military’s uniform code of military justice (UCMJ). Their laws are so outdated that the entire military justice system needs to be overhauled! This is probably one of the reasons why there are almost a million veterans locked away in prison. One hand washes the other. Imagine how much money is being paid into the federal prison system to house our veterans? I spent 45 days in one and trust me, I witnessed more than enough!!!
The other half of their bargaining chip is to “clean up” their mess at Guantanamo. Now that’s a beast I don’t want to get close too!!