December 7, 2022
2023 NDAA Advances Historic Military Justice Reform; Removes All Prosecutorial Authority From Chain of Command
Protect Our Defenders applauds Senator Gillibrand, Representative Speier, and the bipartisan coalition for expanding legislation to combat the military’s sexual assault crisis
Washington, DC – Yesterday, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) released a draft of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which will remove all prosecutorial authority from the chain of command for sexual harassment, sexual assault and 12 other serious crimes. The legislation also mandates impartial investigations by independent civilian investigators for all claims of sexual harassment and randomized selection of court-members (jurors). Importantly, the military will now be required to notify victims of sexual assault of legal resources from civilian agencies such as Protect Our Defenders.
The legislation builds on historic reforms instituted as part of the 2022 NDAA – the most transformative military justice reform in our nation’s history – which empowered independent military prosecutors to determine whether those accused of sexual assault, rape, murder, domestic violence and other serious offenses will be prosecuted. By incorporating sexual harassment, this year’s NDAA addresses an important oversight and moves us closer toward holding military leadership accountable, protecting survivors, and rectifying the military’s sexual assault crisis.
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United States Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“Vanessa Guillen’s murder painfully confirmed what we already knew – sexual harassment may often precede assault and more violence.
“Last year’s NDAA was the most transformative justice reform in military history. But, by keeping sexual harrasment under the purview of commanders, it left the door open for abuse to persist.
“This year’s legislation addresses that oversight. It is pivotal to fighting the military’s sexual assault crisis and emboldening military retention and readiness.
“The bicameral, bipartisan expansion of military justice reform in the 2023 NDAA is only possible because of the work of advocates, survivors, and legislators – especially Senator Gillibrand and Representative Speier – committed to transforming the military’s archaic and preferential justice system. We are indebted to the bravery of survivors and victims’ families, like the Guillens. We will continue to fight with them to protect servicemembers and ensure all receive a fair chance at justice within the military justice system.”