Congresswoman Jackie Speier on House Passage of National Defense Authorization Act and Inclusion of Her Amendments: ‘It Doesn’t Cure the Cancer of Military Sexual Assault’



 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City) voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act of FY2014. The bill included nine of the Congresswoman’s amendments, including six amendments to address military sexual assault. Neither the House nor the Senate allowed a vote on taking military sexual assault prosecution out of the chain of command, however, a fundamental reform for survivors the Congresswoman has championed since 2011.

 

“This bill ignores problems with the chain of command related to sexual assault. It addresses the symptoms of the crisis but doesn’t cure the cancer. While I’m pleased that many of my amendments were accepted and we moved the ball forward to address sexual assault, much of the work is still yet to be done. Until we hold perpetrators accountable by punishing them appropriately and in greater numbers the work and duty of Congress will remain incomplete,” Congresswoman Speier said. “As I have said before this fight is not a sprint but a marathon and it will be won.”

 

On the other amendments, Speier said: “The bill does not ultimately make the hard choices needed to get the Pentagon’s budget in order. It ignores the need for military pay and personnel reform. It also approves continued spending on unaffordable missile defense programs the Defense Department simply does not need.”

 

SPEIER’S INDIVIDUAL AMENDMENTS INCLUDED IN NDAA

(SEXUAL ASSAULT RELATED)

 

Article 32

Bipartisan compromise legislation by House and Senate negotiators includes provisions sponsored by Congresswoman Speier and Congressman Patrick Meehan (R/PA-7) that amends Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to help prevent abusive treatment of sexual assault victims in a pre-trial setting..

 

The compromise agreement includes a number of reforms that address the issue of sexual assault in the military. It strips commanders of their authority to dismiss a finding by a court martial. It will also prohibit commanders from reducing guilty findings to guilty of a lesser offence.

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Article 32s are currently rigged in favor of the perpetrators. The scales have been exceedingly tilted in favor of the accused. This amendment to the NDAA will stop treating the victims of rape in the military as the criminals. Article 32s mutated and put the victim on trial, not the accused. These proceedings have destroyed legitimate cases before they got to trial, re-victimized survivors and served as a dire warning to those who considered coming forward.”

 

Military Character Disposition Authority

This amendment precludes a Convening Authority from not charging an individual of rape or sexual assault based on the good military character of the individual. It has been common for commanders to not charge assailants or offer non-judicial punishment to them because they were “good soldiers.”

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Good military character has absolutely nothing to do with whether someone is a serial predator. Good military character certainly shouldn’t be a reason for someone not to stand trial. This is the first step in taking good military character completely out of the equation in these cases.” 

 

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

Requires that all brigades in our military have an individual who is a certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner to care for victims of sexual assault and have the skills to administer rape kits.

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Rape kits are useless if the person collecting evidence doesn’t know what they are doing. My amendment will ensure that trained personnel will be administering the kits, which could make the difference between proving an assault or letting a rapist walk free.” 

 

Stripping Commander’s Ability to Lessen Sentences

Amendment precludes the convening authority from lessening a sentence after a judge or jury has sentenced an individual.

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Commanders have no business reducing sentences after a jury in a court-martial case has convicted and sentenced the defendant, which currently happens all too often. My amendment will largely take this power from them, and end this miscarriage of justice.” 

 

Victims’ Rights

It provides service members who are victims of crimes the same basic rights given to civilian victims, such as reasonable protection from the accused, the right to be treated with fairness, and respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“The military has a gross problem of underreporting incidents of sexual assault and retribution. Victims will continue not to come forward as long as the military justice system runs roughshod over their rights.”

 

Military Whistleblower Protection Enhancements

This amendment modernizes the protections available to whistleblowers and victims of sexual assault by protecting disclosures up the chain of command, establishing reasonable legal burdens to demonstrate retaliation available to other federal whistleblowers against reprisal, providing a reasonable amount of time to report wrongdoing, requiring discipline against those who retaliate against whistleblowers, and providing a review process that will give victims and whistleblowers the ability to have their records corrected if they have experienced reprisal.

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“The system to protect victims of sexual assault and whistleblowers in the military is fundamentally broken, and as a result most victims never come forward because they know they will be retaliated against, and that there will be no accountability for those that act against them. Of the victims that are brave enough to come forward, 62 percent report experiencing retaliation. Without real protections and remedies against reprisals, the decision to report your attacker is a decision to end your career in the military. These reforms are overdue for everyone in our military.”

 

(ADDITIONAL AMENDMENTS)

 

Comptroller Review of the Costs of a Top-Heavy Military

This amendment requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review of the costs of sustaining the top-heavy military by looking at the direct and indirect costs associated with their support general and flag officers.

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“When most organizations are becoming flatter, the military has become increasingly top-heavy. The military has added nearly 100 general and flag officers since 2011, and the number of officers in the military is outpacing the number of service members they have to lead. Taxpayers cannot afford to subsidize Generals’ golf courses and palatial housing any longer. It is time to have a clear-eyed analysis of the perks and luxury expenses of Star Creep.”

 

Transparency for Waivers of Suspension or Debarment

This amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to make “compelling reason” memos waiving suspension or debarment contractor decisions public.

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Keeping these waivers of suspension or debarment decisions confidential has kept this information from being effectively shared between suspension and debarment officers across the federal government. This has also made it harder for good government groups and Congress to oversee the responsibility determinations of our federal procurement system. The GAO found in 2012 that the Pentagon issued and failed to send to other agencies 14 compelling reason waivers between 2009 and 2011. We cannot have contractor accountability if we don’t have transparency about when we waive suspension or debarment decisions.”

 

Report On Provider Referrals for Ancillary Services Under TRICARE

This amendment requires the Defense Department to assess the policies and controls in place in the TRICARE system to ensure taxpayers do not have to pay excessive costs for ancillary service referrals by TRICARE providers.

 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“A recent Government Accountability Office report has confirmed that physician self-referral for advanced imaging services is costing Medicare more than $100 million in unnecessary spending each year. We must root out this potential waste in the TRICARE system as well.”

 

###

 

Congresswoman Jackie Speier is proud to represent California’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties. She is a senior member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). In her role on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Congresswoman is a ranking member on the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements and serves on the Subcommittee on National Security. She serves on the Readiness Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on HASC and is a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Congresswoman Speier was appointed to serve as a Senior Whip for the Democratic caucus in the 113th Congress.