Bicameral support on Capitol hill for a military justice bill that would move the decision to prosecute serious crimes in the military from the chain of command.
Vanessa Guillen Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act has bicameral and bipartisan support.
It’s named after Spc. Vanessa Guillén, who was missing at Fort Hood for about two months before her remains were found late last June.
Guillen was killed by a soldier, who her family says sexually harassed her, and who killed himself as police sought to arrest him.
Her death put a spotlight on violence and leadership problems within the Army.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in a news conference today said the bill “is written specifically to create a bright line at all serious crimes to protect both plaintiffs and defendants, to deal with two grave injustices that we have evidence.”
“We have evidence from the DOD and the unbelievable scourge and unwillingness of the command to prosecute sexual assault and to take these crimes seriously,” the senator added.
This comes as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says he will support long-debated changes to the military justice system that would remove decisions on prosecuting sexual assault cases from military commanders.
In a statement Tuesday, obtained by The Associated Press, Austin says he supports taking those sexual assault and related crimes away from the chain of command, and let independent military lawyers handle them.
The Pentagon has long resisted such a change, but Austin and other senior leaders are slowly acknowledging that the military has failed to make progress against sexual assault, and some changes are needed.