Turner, Tsongas offer McCaskill sexual assault provisions

Reps. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) introduced legislation this week to combat sexual assault in the military.

The measure, called the FAIR Military Act, includes several provisions from legislation sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) that the Senate passed 97-0. For instance, it would limit the ability to cite a soldier's clean record when defending the person against sexual assault charges.

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“This legislation confronts failures in our current system and takes specific action in the areas of prevention, protection and prosecution,” Turner said.

Tsongas added the legislation was “another step towards eradicating these crimes and changing the toxic culture that has allowed them to continue for too long.”

The House Armed Services Committee is expected to consider the 2015 defense authorization later this year, likely in the summer. Tsongas and Turner's proposal could be included in that measure or offered as an amendment.

One provision outlined in the proposal would establish an independent panel to review how victims' mental health records are admitted into evidence during a trial.

The bill would require that the military sexual assault prevention measures included in the most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also apply to the military service academies. Those policies include prohibiting military commanders from overturning convictions and making it a crime to retaliate against anyone who reports a sexual assault.

It would also direct the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress on the implementation of the sexual assault prevention policies outlined in the NDAA and as directed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Additionally, similar to the McCaskill bill, the House measure would require performance appraisals of military officers to include their support of sexual assault prevention policies.

Military support groups such as the Service Women's Action Network have endorsed the Turner-Tsongas legislation.