Panel OKs pro­gram to as­sist mil­i­tary sex­ual as­sault cases

Lodi News-Sentinel - - PAGE TWO - By Ja­son Dick

WASH­ING­TON — Ad­vo­cates of tak­ing the de­ci­sion for pros­e­cut­ing mil­i­tary sex­ual as­saults — a per­sis­tent prob­lem within the ranks — out­side the chain of com­mand scored a sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory Wed­nes­day when the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee ap­proved a pi­lot pro­gram that would do just that at the ser­vice acad­e­mies.

Rep. Jackie Speier, chair­woman of the Mil­i­tary Per­son­nel Sub­com­mit­tee, pushed through a four-year pro­gram that would re­quire the com­man­dants of the ser­vice acad­e­mies to fol­low the rec­om­men­da­tion of an in­de­pen­dent pros­e­cu­tor in cases of sex­ual as­sault.

The lan­guage trig­gered fa­mil­iar ob­jec­tions from Repub­li­cans about re­mov­ing such cases from the chain of com­mand, but ul­ti­mately pre­vailed on a mostly party­line vote.

De­bate on Speier’s lan­guage marked the be­gin­ning of the con­tentious por­tion of the marathon markup of the mas­sive Pen­tagon pol­icy bill.

Speier’s amend­ment would au­tho­rize a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to han­dle sex­ual as­saults at the mil­i­tary acad­e­mies, mark­ing her first leg­isla­tive vic­tory in her years­long ef­fort to take the de­ci­sion for pros­e­cut­ing these crimes out of the chain of com­mand.

“The num­ber of sex­ual as­saults at the mil­i­tary ser­vice acad­e­mies has more than dou­bled — I repeat, dou­bled — from 327 to 747 (from) 2013 to 2018,” Speier said. “Over that time, re­port­ing rates de­creased from 16% to 12%.”

Speier’s pro­posal would re­quire the com­man­dants of the ser­vice acad­e­mies to ac­cept the de­ter­mi­na­tions of an out­side pros­e­cu­tor in cases of sex­ual as­sault. But re­mov­ing these cases from the chain of com­mand has been sug­gested be­fore, and the idea has proved con­tro­ver­sial both on Capi­tol Hill and at the Pen­tagon.

MARK WIL­SON/GETTY IMAGES FILE PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Chair­woman Jackie Speier (D-San Fran­cisco) par­tic­i­pates in a House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing mil­i­tary sex­ual as­saults on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on April 2.

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