June 6, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) included eleven amendments offered by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) in the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act. Congresswoman Speier ultimately voted against the bill because it doesn’t meet our national strategic objectives and authorizes spending $30 billion beyond the Administration’s request and does not sufficiently address the sexual assault crisis in our armed forces.

“This bill does not make the hard choices necessary to get the Pentagon’s budget in order. The committee again refused to address problems with the chain of command and the flawed judicial process for victims of sexual assault, ignored the need for military pay and personnel reform, approved continued spending on unaffordable missile defense programs the Defense Department does not need, and tied the hands of the Department to make reasonable cuts to its infrastructure to protect parochial interests.”

Six of Congresswoman Speier’s amendments to end sexual assault in the military were adopted by the Committee.

“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, and take this out of the chain of command, the work and duty of Congress will remain incomplete. I’ll be offering amendments on the floor, including taking cases out of the chain of command, and won’t stop fighting until we fix this.”    

 

INDIVIDUAL AMENDMENTS

(SEXUAL ASSAULT RELATED) 

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.” 

DOD Inspector General Study on Discharges

Requires the DOD Inspector General to investigate all unrestricted reports of sexual assaults made by members of the Armed Forces where the members were subsequently separated from the Armed Forces. They would be required to investigate the circumstances of and grounds for such a separation and if policies and procedures were followed. 

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Mental health diagnoses are rampantly misused to administratively discharge survivors of sexual assault and other service members.  Since 2001, the military has discharged more than 31,000 service members on the grounds that they had a personality disorder.

“In 2008, a GAO investigation found that the services failed to comply with their own requirements related to diagnosing personality disorders between 22 and 60 percent of the time.

“My hope is that this amendment and the findings it produces will trigger the military to address the mishandled cases once and for all.”   

Victims’ Rights

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.” 

Traumatic Brain Injury

Requires the Secretary of Defense to fund drug research to combat traumatic brain injury.

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

“Amazing advancements are being made in this field that could change the lives of hundreds of thousands of service members that will need treatment.  It is vital that we fund this groundbreaking research and I’m glad my amendment will help do that.”

 

(ADDITIONAL AMENDMENTS)

 

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.” 

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.” 

Survey on Service Member Preferences Regarding Military Pay and Benefits

This amendment would require a random survey of service members to assess what benefits are most valued by service members and their families.

On this amendment Congresswoman Speier said:

The costs of military personnel and operations and maintenance will consume 86% of the budget by 2021, and that the costs of military personnel alone will consume the entire defense budget by 2039. But any plan for reform must be based on data about what service members value most. Preliminary surveys of personnel have shown that many of our assumptions about what personnel value most may be wrong. Increasing basic pay for junior enlisted has more than 6 times the impact than a dollar spent increasing basic pay for senior officers, and that service members do not value TRICARE for Life commensurate with what it costs the Department. We owe our military and taxpayers a sustainable benefit system that balances our gratitude for their service with the government’s fiscal realities.” 

 

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