Boehner calls rise in military sexual assault 'a national disgrace’

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday called the rise of sexual assaults in the military "a national disgrace” and praised efforts underway in Congress to address the problem.

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"It's outrageous, and frankly, it’s a national disgrace,” Boehner said at a press conference.

Boehner praised the work of House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) to shine a light on the problem in the Pentagon over the last two years.

There has been a host of legislation introduced in Congress in recent months in order to curb an increase in sexual assaults. A Pentagon report released this month estimated there were 26,000 assaults in the military in 2012, an increase from 19,000 in 2010.

A number of incidents have amplified the calls for change, including instances of military sexual assault prevention officers themselves being accused of sexual assaults.

President Obama has called on the military to do more to address the problem, and he met with top Pentagon leaders at the White House last week to talk about potential solutions.

The Defense authorization bill, which is currently being written in McKeon’s committee, is viewed as the likely vehicle for legislative changes to come in Congress.

The panel’s Personnel subcommittee passed its portion of the bill on Wednesday, which included legislation on sexual assault from Tuner and Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.). 

Their measure would strip military commanders’ ability to overturn guilty verdicts reached by a jury, a change to the military’s judicial code recommended by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

— Russell Berman contributed.