Sens. Cruz, Gillibrand Reintroduce Military Justice Improvement Act
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and I today led a bipartisan group of senators to reintroduce the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision over whether to prosecute them to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors.
Sexual assault is a horrific wrong, and, tragically, it has proven far too pervasive in our armed forces. We have a solemn obligation to protect the young women and men in the military, and to keep all of them safe from sexual violence. Decades of experience have shown that, under the status quo, far too many victims of assault are reluctant to come forward because they fear their attackers will not be prosecuted. That's why, for many years, I've joined with Sen. Gillibrand to help lead this bipartisan effort to ensure sexual assault cases are handled by career military prosecutors - to honor our commitment to every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine - and its why I'm proud to do so again.
"Our nation's military leaders have spent decades promising ‘zero tolerance' on sexual assault, but it's painfully clear that they've failed at that mission. The Pentagon, by its own admission, is out of time - and should now be out of excuses," said Senator Gillibrand. "For years, survivor after survivor has told us the change we need to make in the military justice system to end the scourge of sexual assault in our military - the same change that some of our allies all around the world have already made: move the decision to try these crimes outside of the chain of command to trained military prosecutors. The Department of Defense has tried incremental reforms, but they clearly haven't worked. Sexual assault is still pervasive - in fact the latest DoD numbers show that sexual assaults in the military have dramatically increased while the number of cases going to trial has gone down. None of this is acceptable. It's long past time for Congress to step up and create accountability where the DoD has failed. That is how we will finally give our men and women in uniform a justice system that is fair, professional, and actually works."
According to the Department of Defense's own data in this year's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) report, there were an estimated 20,500 instances of sexual assault - a massive increase over the 14,900 estimated in the previous 2016 survey. The number of women in the military who experienced sexual assault increased by 50%, from 8,600 in FY2016 to 13,000 in FY2018. In fact, by DoD's own admission, the odds of young service women experiencing a sexual assault is one in eight, yet commanders have sent fewer cases to trial - from 588 in FY2014, to 389 in FY2016, to 307 in FY2018.
The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).