Protect Our Defenders News Blog


*** STATEMENT *** Protect Our Defenders Applauds Senator Gillibrand’s Efforts to Reform the Military Justice System

September 20, 2017



WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, the United States Senate passed the final FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The final NDAA contains four provisions that are key to reforming Military Sexual Assault (MSA). The provisions include: strengthening appellate rights for victims of MSA; establishing a career litigation track for JAGs in order to increase expertise and professionalize the legal force; criminalizing the sharing of sexually explicit content under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; and mandating comprehensive sexual assault prevention training for service members prior to basic training.

Protect Our Defenders (POD) proudly supported all four provisions. Strengthening victim appellate rights and creating career military litigation tracks are policy priorities for POD.

Noticeably absent from the FY18 NDAA is the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). For the second year in a row, MJIA–which would provide for the comprehensive reform of the military justice system–had its vote blocked. This is a marked contrast from previous years, when, although not making it into the final Senate NDAA, the MJIA was allowed to be brought for a vote and was supported by the majority of the Senate.

Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United States Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, says:

“We are extremely disappointed Senate leadership did not allow a vote on the Military Justice Improvement Act. The continual flood of sexual assault and harassment scandals rocking the military undermines its ability to function and our national security. While sexual assault reports are at an all-time high, prosecutions and convictions dropped dramatically last year demonstrating the failure of the commander based system to hold offenders accountable.

“Despite the refusal to allow a vote to professionalize military justice, we are pleased Senator Gillibrand successfully included four major military justice reforms in the NDAA critical to delivering justice and accountability. We are also heartened that Senator Joni Ernst joined with Senator Gillibrand to improve the expertise of military attorneys. We are grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her commitment to seeking justice for survivors of MSA.”