Biden Supports Changing Military Law on Sexual Assault Cases

President Biden mentioned Friday that he wished the navy to take away the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault instances from the management of commanders, a sea change for the navy justice system.

An impartial fee formally really useful to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III this week that sexual assault, sexual harassment and associated instances be shifted to particular victims prosecutors exterior of the chain of command within the navy, one thing navy leaders have lengthy resisted, arguing that it could hinder order and self-discipline.

“Sexual assault is an abuse of power and an affront to our shared humanity,” Mr. Biden mentioned in a ready assertion. “And sexual assault in the military is doubly damaging because it also shreds the unity and cohesion that is essential to the functioning of the U.S. military and to our national defense.”

While Mr. Austin and Mr. Biden have supported the findings of the fee — that are all however sure to obtain pushback from officers from some branches of the navy — it is going to be as much as Congress to alter the navy legislation.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has a bipartisan measure that will overhaul the way in which the navy prosecutes sexual assault but additionally different severe crimes, which some lawmakers consider is essential in adjudicating instances just like the one involving Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen. Law enforcement officers mentioned she was killed by one other soldier at Fort Hood final 12 months.

“It is a historic sign of progress that after decades of obstruction, the Secretary of Defense has agreed that the removal of sexual assault prosecutions from the chain of command and professionalization of military justice would benefit survivors and in no way diminish good order and discipline,” Ms. Gillibrand mentioned in an announcement.

Her invoice has gained help from at the least 70 members of the Senate — together with many who voted in opposition to the identical invoice in 2014, arguing it could undermine commanders. Reconciling her invoice with the imaginative and prescient of the fee will now be within the palms of lawmakers.

In 2019, the Defense Department discovered that there have been 7,825 stories of sexual assault involving service members as victims, a three % improve from 2018. The conviction charge for instances was unchanged from 2018 to 2019; 7 % of instances that the command took motion on resulted in conviction, the bottom charge because the division started reporting in 2010.

“I want to recognize the experience of our service members who have survived sexual assault and the bravery of those who have shared their stories with the world and advocated for reform,” Mr. Biden mentioned, including, “I hope this announcement offers some reassurance that the Department of Defense leadership stands with you, starting with your commander in chief.”