Rep. Mike Turner Endorses Senator Gillibrand’s Landmark Legislation to Combat Sexual Assault in the Military
As a leader in the fight to combat sexual assault in the military, Senior House Armed Services Member and Co-Chair of the House Military Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Caucus, I, announced my endorsement of the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act of 2021 (MJIIPA). I will serve as the original House Republican cosponsor of this bipartisan legislation.
Introduced in the Senate by Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), MJIIPA would professionalize the military justice process by moving the decision to prosecute felony-level, complex criminal cases, including sexual assault, from the unit commander to a high-ranking and experienced military lawyer. The MJIIPA also increases prevention efforts through three approaches: enhanced training for key leadership billets, improved physical security of military installations, and increased training of investigative agencies and military prosecutors to address complex crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence.
When we ask our men and women in uniform to put their lives on the line for our country, they shouldn’t also fear becoming a victim of sexual assault. We owe them more. After working across the aisle for more than a decade on substantive reform to combat sexual violence in the military, I’m grateful for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s diligent work on the MJIIPA. What Senator Gillibrand has accomplished is unusual in Washington—true bipartisan, bicameral legislation. Today, I announce my support for this landmark legislation.
Military leaders past and present, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral (ret.) Mike Mullen, have recently expressed that more progress must be made to combat these violent offenses and that moving the prosecution authority for these crimes outside of the chain of command should be on the table. MJIIPA strikes a critical balance so that high-level felony cases are fairly prosecuted, offenders are held accountable, and victims are protected while providing commanders the additional tools necessary to retain control over their units and focus on mission success.
Despite an increased focus on combating sexual assault in our military, this remains a serious issue in our ranks that we have the responsibility to address, and this legislation would take a pivotal step in the long fight for military justice reform.
“Congressman Turner is a longtime leader in the fight to combat sexual assault in the military and has a proven record of enacting legislation to deliver justice for survivors,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “I’m grateful for his strong support for The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA), which would take the decision to prosecute sexual assault and other serious crimes out of the chain of command. This is a truly bipartisan bill and it’s time to get this done.”
I have fought for victims of sexual assault in the military by introducing and supporting legislation aimed at prevention, protecting victims, and increasing the tools for prosecution. I have helped enact legislation that provides for expedited transfers for victims, establishes a mandatory dishonorable discharge for convicted sex offenders, limits commander’s discretion to grant clemency, and establishes Special Victims’ Counsel for victims of sexual assault—an unprecedented step forward in protecting victim rights. More recently, I supported a provision in the FY20 NDAA that increased the fairness of military judicial proceedings by addressing undue command influence under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Unlike previous legislation that significantly undermined the commander’s efforts to ensure good order and discipline within the unit, under the MJIIPA, unit commanders maintain the authority to prosecute military-specific offenses and to otherwise address misconduct in the unit. Specifically, the MJIIPA requires that felony-level complex criminal cases are handled by special military prosecutors who are specifically trained to prosecute these unique cases. Previous legislation also failed to address equal protection concerns for the accused. The MJIIPA promotes equal rights protections for the accused by providing a consistent and comprehensive court-martial process that does not arbitrarily differentiate between classes of alleged offenders.
The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act is endorsed by several leading veterans and sexual violence prevention groups, including the VFW, IAVA, Vietnam Veterans of America, Protect our Defenders, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, SWAN, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), Common Defense and Veterans Recovery Project.