U.S. SENATE –  U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) today introduced landmark legislation to combat military sexual assault. The legislation focuses on improvements to the investigation and judicial process, as well as victim support once an assault has been reported.

The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act is a culmination of over two months of work from McSally. Since March 6, she has visited every Arizona military base to speak with commanders about current issues addressing sexual assault. One common theme throughout McSally’s visits is the timeliness from the time an assault is reported to the conclusion of the case.

“Sexual assault is intolerable and we must step up and demand action now,” McSally said. “A commander is like no other position in the civilian world. We need to empower commanders to have more responsibility and more accountability than they do now. My bill will improve the timeliness from the time an assault is reported to when it is brought to its conclusion. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in saying the time is now to end sexual assault and take the steps necessary to give commanders, investigators, prosecutors, and all involved in the process the resources they need.”

McSally’s bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senate Armed Service Subcommittee on Personnel Subcommittee Chairman U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), and Mike Rounds (R-SD).

Senator Thom Tillis: “I commend Senator McSally for her strong leadership in combatting sexual assault in the military, and I’m proud to join her in support of this landmark legislation to support victims and make the military justice system more expeditious and efficient.”  

U.S. Senator Rick Scott: “Sexual assault can never be tolerated – not in our military or anywhere else in this country. I’m proud to work with Senator McSally, a courageous voice for victims, to end sexual assault. The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act gives our military the resources it needs to end the plague of sexual assault, hold perpetrators accountable, and provide victims the support they deserve.”

Military Officers Association of America President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins: “MOAA supports this comprehensive bill ensuring our armed forces capitalize on standardized prevention and training while remaining flexible enough to adapt to best practices. The added support for victims continues to be paramount as we continue to learn from each other, and from other institutions, to try and rid our forces of sexual assault.”

The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act includes the following provisions:

Prevention and Training:

  • Direct the Department of Defense to conduct additional research on effective sexual assault reduction programs at colleges and universities
  • Standardize and modernize training requirements across services through a comprehensive review of best practices in military justice, victim assistance, promotion of healthy command climates, and ensuring the accused is afforded due process rights

Victim Support:

  • Ensure Special Victim Counsels (SVCs) are located to guarantee timely access when a victim requests a SVC after reporting an assault
  • Empower commanders with additional responsibility to communicate with victims about the investigation and judicial process
  • Provide victims additional options for restricted reporting when a report comes from a third party
  • Improve processes to communicating with victims and documenting victim preference about the reporting process, including jurisdictional preference
  • Guarantee privacy protections for victims utilizing the CATCH program to report serial offenders
  • Remove potential barriers to reporting by directing DoD to study the feasibility of applying “safe to report” policies related to collateral misconduct offenses across all military services

Investigation:

  • Ensure military judges have similar authority as civilian judges with relation to pre-trial issues
  • Mandate the development of a plan to form a DoD-wide data management system to better share and track information on criminal cases, including normalizing data so that each military service is tracking the same data in the same way to ease data sharing and tracking
  • Direct the services to create and report on processes for the immediate collaboration at the start of an investigation by Special Victim Investigation and Prosecution (SVIP) teams in order to streamline efforts
  • Mandate that the DoD develop a process to track that Military Protection Orders are shared with civilian authorities 
  • Increase capabilities for investigators to meet increasing demand for digital evidence processing and improve the timeliness of investigations

Prosecution:

  • Modify the Manual for Courts-Martial to add a specific offense for “sexual harassment”
  • Direct the creation of non-binding sentencing guidelines to create consistency in punishment
  • Promote timely public access to military justice documents, while ensuring measures are taken against inappropriate release of personal information

The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act is available HERE.

Background on McSally’s work to combat sexual assault in the military:

On May 9, McSally met with Air Force leadership at Andrew Air Force Base to dig into the improvements that McSally is proposing.

On May 7, McSally convened a meeting of the nation’s top military leaders to discuss the recommendations and path forward on combating sexual assault. This meeting followed the delivery of the task force report that was a direct result of McSally’s request to the Acting Secretary of Defense.

On April 26, McSally visited Ft. Huachuca and Davis-Monthan to meet with soldiers and airmen to hear firsthand their ideas on ending sexual assault in the military.

On April 17, McSally visited Marine Corps Air Station Yuma to hear their perspective on how to address sexual assault in the military.

On April 4, McSally delivered the keynote address at the U.S. Naval Academy at a discussion about sexual assault and sexual harassment at colleges, universities, and service academies nationwide.

On March 28, McSally met with the Sexual Assault Accountability and Investigation Task Force to discuss her vision for the task force. This task force was formed at McSally’s request. The meeting was attended by the Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense as well as representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Judge Advocates General, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Force Resiliency, and the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Office.

On March 21, McSally visited Luke Air Force Base where she met with commanders and held a meet-on-greet with airmen for a discussion on tackling sexual assault.

On March 18, McSally requested the immediate formation of a Department of Defense task force to combat sexual assault. Just a day later, Shanahan committed to standing up the task force at McSally’s request.

On March 14, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Department of Defense budget posture, McSally received a commitment from Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford to work with her to combat sexual assault in the military.

On March 13, McSally called for an executive summit within the next 30 days to tackle the issue of sexual assault in the Air Force.

On March 6, McSally disclosed that she was a survivor of military sexual assault and sought to combat sexual assault in the military while keeping sexual assault cases under the commander.

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