SPONSORED:

Milley drops objection to change in military's sexual assault policy

Milley drops objection to change in military's sexual assault policy
© Greg Nash

The top U.S. general is dropping his objection to a proposal to take decisions on whether to prosecute sexual assault out of the chain of command.  

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech Trump's Navy secretary spent over M on travel during pandemic: report Overnight Defense: US may keep training Afghan forces in other countries | Defense chief tight-lipped on sexual assault decision | 'Swift' return to Iran deal possible, US says MORE did not endorse the recommendation made by an independent review panel to remove such decisions from commanders, but is open to considering it, according to an interview he gave to The Associated Press and CNN.

“I was adamantly opposed to that for years,” Milley said in a Sunday interview. “But I haven’t seen the needle move.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’ve been at it for years, and we haven’t effectively moved the needle,” he said. “We have to. We must.”

The stance marks a major shift for Milley, who is the most senior uniformed official to comment on the proposed move and is the top military adviser to Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinWill deterrence work, when our foes wage war disguised as peace? Overnight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech White House posts visitor logs for first time since Obama MORE and President BidenJoe BidenDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Sasse to introduce legislation giving new hires signing bonuses after negative jobs report Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE, who have both pledged to quell the persistent problem of sexual assault in the ranks.

Milley for years opposed taking the decision out of the commanders' hands, arguing it would create a breakdown in unit cohesion.

But after years of little change in the military coupled with a renewed pressure from the administration and from Congress to tackle the issue, perspectives have begun to shift.

Austin last week was given the recommendation to designate independent judge advocates, who would report to a civilian-led Office of the Chief Special Victim Prosecutor, to decide whether to charge someone in certain cases of special victims crimes including sexual assault and sexual harassment.

ADVERTISEMENT

The panel also advised that sexual harassment claims be looked into by those outside the chain of command.

Austin has not publicly commented on the review commission’s proposals, but is expected to make a decision on them in roughly a month as service leaders are taking that time to review and respond to the suggestions.  

Milley also said he has changed his mind due in part to concerns that junior enlisted service members had lost confidence in the fairness of sexual assault case outcomes and thus lost confidence in the chain of command.

“That’s really bad for our military if that’s true, and survey and the evidence indicate it is true,” he said. “That’s a really bad situation if the enlisted force — the junior enlisted force — lacks confidence in their chain of command to be able to effectively deal with the issue of sexual assault.”