Measure to change military’s judicial code gains support of House panel

McKeon said in a statement Thursday that his committee would act to combat sexual assault.

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“Many members of the committee have put forward meritorious proposals,” he said. “I know that initiatives to combat sexual assault will once again be a major component of the National Defense Authorization Act.”

Turner and Tsongas were two of 16 lawmakers who were invited to a meeting at the White House Thursday to talk about curbing military sexual assault.

The meeting occurred two days after President Obama called for the military to do more to stop the persistent problem of sexual assault within its ranks. Obama’s comments came the same day that a Pentagon report estimated 26,000 assaults occurred last year, an increase of one-third from 2010.

There is a new-found momentum in Congress to do more to address sexual assault on the heels of the report and several recent incidents, including an Air Force official in charge of sexual assault prevention who was charged with sexual battery this past weekend.

"Everyone is struck by the new DOD report that indicates as many as 26,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military with less than 3,000 willing to step forward and report the crime," Turner said.

Lawmakers said after the meeting that the White House officials wanted to hear more about their proposals, and the officials said they would also explore what more could be done administratively to try to curb the problem.

The meeting was led by senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and first lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, Tina Tchen.

“It was very good sharing of information. People were interested in working together across the aisle and with the House,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), one of the nine senators at the meeting.

The legislation from Turner and Tsongas is similar to the proposal put forward last month by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who vowed this week to hold military leaders accountable for sexual assault.

Hagel’s proposal came after he ordered a review of the military’s judicial code in the wake of a sexual assault case in which an Air Force commander overturned a guilty verdict.

There has been similar legislation proposed in the Senate, and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has also expressed support for the measure.

The various measures to combat sexual assault are expected to be considered as part of the defense authorization bill, in part because it is almost assured to pass — the legislation has a streak of passing for 51 straight years.

“The NDAA will be first train moving,” Turner said.