Gillibrand: Military must make changes beyond sexual assault cases

Gillibrand: Military must make changes beyond sexual assault cases
© Greg Nash

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenators hail 'historic changes' as competing proposals to tackle military sexual assault advance Overnight Defense: Military justice overhaul included in defense bill | Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' | Pentagon carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage MORE (D-N.Y.), who has led efforts to change the way the military handles sexual assault cases, says the military must make changes to its justice system that go beyond that issue.

Gillibrand has offered legislation to overhaul how the military handles sexual assault, but her bill would go well beyond such issues to touch on other crimes.

Gillibrand told The Associated Press that wider change is needed to combat racial injustice in the military, as studies have found Black people are more likely to be arrested for misconduct.

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She also said she would have more to say about this in the coming days.

While Gillibrand's bill has enough bipartisan co-sponsors to get through the Senate and avoid a filibuster, her effort hit a wall last month because of opposition from Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedSenate panel votes to make women register for draft Senators hail 'historic changes' as competing proposals to tackle military sexual assault advance Overnight Defense: Military justice overhaul included in defense bill | Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' | Pentagon carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden MORE (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. His committee has oversight over the issue.

Asked about compromising on her bill, Gillibrand told AP that “we’ve been doing that for eight years. We’ve been getting something through every year, and some things just don’t work. You need this broad-based reform.”

“This is a bill whose time has come,” she continued.

Gillibrand’s bill would remove decisions about prosecuting military sexual assault and other serious crimes from military commanders, and instead leave the decision to trained military prosecutors.

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Reed says he believes Gillibrand's bill will get through the Armed Services Committee with the panel's approval, but that it should go through the committee. It's possible the bill could be changed through that process, and Gillibrand has pushed for it to be brought directly to the floor.

Speaking to CNN last month, Gillibrand publicly called on Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden administration stokes frustration over Canada Schumer blasts McCarthy for picking people who 'supported the big lie' for Jan. 6 panel Biden's belated filibuster decision: A pretense of principle at work MORE (D-N.Y.) to bring her bill to the floor for a vote.

Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinPentagon chief to restore advisory panels after purge of Trump loyalists Senators hail 'historic changes' as competing proposals to tackle military sexual assault advance Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war MORE has said he is open to making changes on how the Pentagon handles cases of sexual assault.

The Pentagon said earlier this month that it is nearing a decision on whether to have independent prosecutors handle sexual assault cases. An independent commission set up in January recommended the change.

But Gillibrand told the AP that she thinks the Pentagon will use the panel’s report to “confuse members of Congress, and they will try to muddy the waters and say, we’ve already looked at this and they only recommended that sexual assault come out of the chain of command.”

She further warned that limiting her bill to sexual assault will “really harm female service members."

“It will further marginalize them, further undermine them, and they’ll be seen as getting special treatment,” she told AP.