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***STATEMENT*** Protect Our Defenders Applauds President Biden for New Executive Order Implementing Historic Military Justice Reforms

July 28, 2023
Protect Our Defenders Applauds President Biden for New Executive Order Implementing Historic Military Justice Reforms

New executive order closes loopholes in military justice reform passed in the 2022 NDAA to shift prosecutorial authority from commanders to independent parties in cases involving sexual assault, harassment, and other serious offenses

Washington, DC – Today, President Biden signed a new executive order implementing the most transformative military justice reform in our nation’s history – which will empower independent military prosecutors to determine whether those accused of sexual assault, rape, murder, domestic violence and other serious offenses will be prosecuted. The executive order shifts key decision-making authorities from commanders and builds on historic reforms instituted as part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) establishing a new Special Trial Counsel that will have prosecutorial authority over 11 offenses as well as have exclusive authority over entering plea agreements and adding or dismissing charges.

The executive order also includes the adoption of a host of other Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military (IRC) recommendations, such as professionalizing and strengthening prevention and response workforces, and improving the Department’s responses to reports of domestic violence and sexual harassment. Today’s news comes after a military sexual assault survivors led campaign from Protect Our Defenders that secured the support of President Biden to ensure that no rape victim’s boss is able to decide whether they receive justice.

“Biden was asked by Nancy Parrish (POD’s Founder & Executive Chair during the 2020 Presidential campaign), an advocate for ending sexual assault in the military, if he would support ‘moving the military justice system into the 21st century,’ by allowing military prosecutors ‘to make prosecution decisions for non-military crimes — serious felonies like rape, murder, and child abuse,’ according to a pool report by Politico’s Marc Caputo.

“Biden answered ‘yes, yes, yes,’ pointing to his championing of the Violence Against Women Act and a confrontation with the commander of the joint chiefs on the issue, and saying ‘we have to change the culture of abuse in this country.’”

Protect Our Defenders Founder and Chair Nancy Parrish released the following statement:

“Today’s executive order is a direct result of the tenacity, compassion and bravery of survivors of military sexual assault, harassment and trauma. Thank you President Biden. For the past two decades, survivors worked together, fought together, shed tears together, healed together and put our shoulders to move this enormous wheel of progress together.

“We are deeply grateful for President Biden’s deep commitment, steadfast support and engagement. And the tireless dedication of advocates, survivors, and legislators – especially Senator Gillibrand and former Representative Speier for their support of a military justice system that is more just for all.

“I founded Protect Our Defenders over a decade ago with the aim to enact a professional and more fair U.S. Military Justice System. This is a historic moment. We will continue to serve as a watchdog to ensure historic reforms are implemented fairly and look forward to seeing the full executive order.”

Protect Our Defenders Senior Vice President, Josh Connolly, former Chief of Staff for Rep. Jackie Speier (former Chairwoman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee), released the following statement:

“Today’s executive order shifting prosecutorial decision-making from commanding officers to a new Special Victims Counsel is a historic step in the right direction to ensure all survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and other serious offense see true justice under the law.”