Mullen now supports removing commanders from sexual assault prosecutions

Mullen now supports removing commanders from sexual assault prosecutions

Retired Adm. Michael Mullen says he now supports removing commanders from sexual assault prosecutions. 

“I’m at a point now where I am ready to support removal, which is a huge step for me because I recognize how serious that issue is,” Mullen told Politico. “We just can’t keep doing what we’re doing because it hasn’t worked.”

Mullen’s comments come after Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandTreat broadband as infrastructure and we have a chance to get it right House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors To make energy green, remove red tape MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday released a bill with bipartisan support that would take away the power of military commanders to decide if a sexual assault case should be prosecuted.

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The bill would give specially trained military prosecutors the reins in navigating sexual assault cases.

Many lawmakers have changed their minds on this issue and have come to support Gillibrand’s proposal, but Mullen’s is particularly impactful as he is the former chair of the Joint Chiefs and is a top adviser to Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBlinken calls US-India relationship 'vital' during official visit Senate panel advances Navy secretary nominee Biden zigzags on China policy MORE.

Mullen picked Austin to be the director of the Joint Staff during Mullen’s time as chair. 

“The Secretary has the utmost respect for Adm. Mullen. He has also been very clear that he wants to keep an open mind about the initial recommendations made to him by the Independent Review Commission," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement to The Hill. "He is reviewing those recommendations now and has asked for the leaders of each of the services to do the same."

Austin appointed an independent panel earlier this year to look into sexual assault cases in the military, and the panel also advised Austin to have sexual assault cases looked at by someone other than a military commander.

Congress would have to pass legislation in order to change military law and remove sexual assault cases from the hands of the commanders.

This is not the first time Mullen has advocated for change in the military; he was the first sitting chairman of the Joint Chiefs to support the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Updated 8:08 p.m.