WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, released the following statement about today’s House-Senate negotiated agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

“The clarion call of sexual assault survivors has been heard: Congress will finally move those cases out of the chain of command. This annual defense policy bill includes historic military justice reforms; the most significant since the creation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1950. Survivors of sexual assault will finally be guaranteed that an independent military attorney, outside of the victim’s and the assailant’s chain of command, will decide whether to prosecute and make other key, binding decisions in these cases. These reforms will not be limited to sexual assault cases but will also ensure domestic violence, stalking, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, and other special victim offenses are taken out of the chain of command. The new, independent prosecutors, known as Special Trial Counsels, will be under civilian control, reporting to the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. These secretaries are appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and will be accountable to Congress and the people of the United States for the success of this transformative change.”

 “I put this issue on the front burner 10 years ago. Few people listened. Even fewer supported me. Then I started telling the raw and painful stories of our brave servicemembers, men and women, who had been violently raped, assaulted, and sexually harassed by the very people that should have had their backs. Each year, 20,000 servicemembers are sexually assaulted and 100,000 servicemembers are sexually harassed. I made a commitment to all survivors that I would fight for them. I introduced amendments year after year in the National Defense Authorization Act, with little to no support from Republicans and Democrats. Today, that changes with Democrats and Republicans coming together to finally right generations of injustice.”

“While this bill creates a standalone military offense for sexual harassment, there is a fatal flaw in that it fails to provide independent prosecution of sexual harassment cases, clearly state and require the independent investigators to be outside of the chain of command of the victims and those accused, and require training for the independent investigators. The lack of accountability in this regard is unacceptable and must be addressed, and I will not stop until that is achieved. Not only do the sheer numbers of sexual harassment victims demand that we do this, the research shows that sexual harassment begets sexual assaults and other serious crimes.”

"Additionally, I take issue with changes to my provision to provide 12 weeks of parental leave for servicemembers; the agreement gives the option but does not require 12 weeks to be available. And it is utterly baffling that the crimes of child abuse and child endangerment were taken out of the Special Trial Counsels’ purview and will remain within the chain of command. Rest assured, I will not stop fighting for these reforms, and I will not stop working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to add all non-military offenses to the list of cases no longer subject to the chain of command.”

“Though this agreement clearly does not include everything my colleagues and I pushed for, it is a giant leap forward for survivors of sexual assault and marks a watershed moment in the fight for justice for those failed by the current system, and the family members of those slain or who died by suicide as a result of that failure. Among the most important aspects of this agreement is the establishment of an independent framework to be expanded over time. I will spend my last year in Congress working to ensure that expansion happens for all the survivors and in honor of SPC Guillén and many other victims like her who were killed, as well as the hundreds of thousands of survivors who carry the scars of sexual assault and sexual harassment to this day.”

 

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