U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rand Paul (R-KY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Dean Heller (R-NV) were joined on Capitol Hill today by Air Force Major General (Ret.) and former Vermont National Guard Adjutant General Martha Rainville, along with other military leaders to continue their unified push for an independent military justice system.
While in Washington, the generals are meeting with undecided Senators to make their case on why this reform is critically needed to strengthen our military.
The Senators also publicly released a letter supporting the Military Justice Improvement Act signed by twenty-six retired generals, admirals, commanders, colonels and captains – including four flag officers (two generals and two admirals) speaking out for the first time. Rainville, the first woman in the history of the National Guard to serve as a state Adjutant General, and Sutton, are now joined by a dozen generals or admirals, knows as flag officers, in supporting the Military Justice Improvement Act.
The carefully crafted Military Justice Improvement Act moves the decision whether to prosecute any crime punishable by one year or more in confinement to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors, with the exception of 37 crimes that are uniquely military in nature, such as disobeying orders or going Absent Without Leave. The decision whether to prosecute the 37 serious crimes uniquely military in nature plus all crimes punishable by less than one year of confinement would remain within the chain of command. The bill does not amend Article 15 pertaining to non-judicial punishments.
According to the FY2012 SAPRO report released earlier this year by the Defense Department, an estimated 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact and sexual assaults occurred in FY2012, a 37% increase from FY2011. Another report released by the Defense Department this year showed that more than 1 in 5 female service members reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact while serving in the military. Also according to the FY2012 SAPRO Report, 25% of women and 27% of men who received unwanted sexual contact indicated the offender was someone in their military chain of command. Further, 50% of female victims stated they did not report the crime because they believed that nothing would be done with their report. Even the current top military leadership admits the current system "has failed" and as Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos stated this year, victims do not come forward because "they don't trust the chain of command."
Many allied modern militaries have reporting outside of the chain of command, such as Britain, Canada, Israel, Germany, Norway and Australia. For example, the British military has prosecutors making trial decisions for all crimes through the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA) within Britain’s Ministry of Defense.
Four allied commanders recently testified to the Response Systems Panel that these changes to their military justice systems had no negative consequences to good order and discipline.