The White House said in a statement that President Joe Biden backs Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s decision to remove the investigation and prosecution of military sexual assault cases from the hands of the armed forces’ chain of command.
The Independent Review Commission on Military Sexual Assault suggests that sexual assault, sexual harassment, and related cases be handled by special victims prosecutors.
“I strongly support Secretary Austin’s announcement that he is accepting the core recommendations put forward by the … [IRC], including removing the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault from the chain of command and creating highly specialized units to handle these cases and related crimes,” Biden said in a statement.
“I want to recognize the experience of our service members who have survived assault and the bravery of those who have shared their stories with the world and advocated for reform,” President Biden said. “I hope this announcement offers some reassurance that the Department of Defense leadership stands with you, starting with your commander in chief.”
“We need concrete actions that fundamentally change the way we handle military sexual assault and that make it clear that these crimes will not be minimized or dismissed.”
“Sexual assault is an abuse of power and an affront to our shared humanity,” the President added. “And sexual assault in the military is doubly damaging because it also shreds the unity and cohesion that is essential to the functioning of the U.S. military and to our national defense.”
It is up to Congress to draft the proper legislation to make these changes to the military law. The push for change comes after several deaths involving sexual assault victims in the military.
“We will remain the preeminent fighting force in the world because we strive to better take care of our people,” Austin said. “Our values and expectations remain at the core of addressing this problem and I have every confidence that our Force will get this right.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has co-authored bipartisan legislation to address how the military handles sexual assault and other serious crimes.
“It is a historic sign of progress that after decades of obstruction, the Secretary of Defense has agreed that the removal of sexual assault prosecutions from the chain of command and professionalization of military justice would benefit survivors and in no way diminish good order and discipline,” Senator Gillibrand said.
According to The New York Times, the Department of Defense acknowledged 7,825 reports of sexual assault involving service members as victims.