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Senators plan push to get sex assault out of chain of command

A bipartisan group of senators plan to begin a two-week promotional push Wednesday for a proposal that would remove sexual assault cases from the military’s chain of command and assign them instead to independent military judges.

Senate Armed Services Committee member Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is hosting the 11:30 a.m. event.

Gillibrand intends to submit her proposal, the Military Justice Improvement Act, as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate plans to vote on before its Thanksgiving break. The NDAA has not yet come up in the House.

A press release distributed Tuesday by Gillibrand’s office said 46 senators, including eight Republicans, are supporting “this commonsense proposal that seeks to reverse the systemic fear that numerous victims of military sexual assault have described in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them due to the clear bias and inherent conflicts of interest posed by the military chain of command's current sole decision-making power over whether cases move forward to a trial.”

The senators will be joined by survivors of sexual assault in the military; a retired brigadier general and former Pentagon appointee by the Obama administration; and a member of the DACOWITS panel, the release said. The six senators scheduled to appear include Gillibrand, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) was established in 1951 and is composed of civilian women and men appointed by the Secretary of Defense to provide advice and recommendations on matters and policies relating to the treatment of highly qualified professional women in the armed forces.  

The three former military members appearing on Wednesday are Ariana Klay, a former Marine officer and Iraq War veteran; Ben Klay, a former Marine who has testified about the issue to the Senate Armed Services Committee; and Brig. Gen. (Ret.) David L. McGinnis, former Principal Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs.

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