Protect Our Defenders News Blog


STATEMENT: Protect Our Defenders Continues to Push for Fundamental Reform


November 30, 2015



Washington, D.C. – Last week, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2016. The 2016 NDAA contains several important reforms of the military justice system. Notably, the new NDAA strengthens the special victims counsel program and enhances appellate rights of a victim. It also brings military practice in alignment with federal law concerning the admissions of confessions into evidence. This common sense reform was first proposed by Protect Our Defenders (POD) to ensure confessions may be used at trial.

These provisions proposed and supported by POD will improve the military justice experience for survivors of military sexual assault and ensure that their voices are heard.

Col. Don Christensen (ret.), President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:

“Sadly, this NDAA marks yet another opportunity lost by Congress to truly address the military sexual assault epidemic. The reforms that passed are a supplement-not a substitute-for fundamental reform. The men and women who protect our nation deserve an impartial system of justice outside the conflicted and often-biased chain of command, one where prosecution decisions are made by trained and independent prosecutors.

“While these reforms are important steps in reforming the way the military does justice, regrettably Congress failed to pass legislation to fundamentally reform military justice. The Pentagon continues to obstruct efforts supported by the majority of the Senate and the American people to create a professional and independent justice system for our service men and women. Until this bipartisan reform is enacted, our military members will continue to be denied a fair and impartial justice system.”

Key improvements to the military justice system include:

  • Expansion of survivors’ ability to contest adverse rulings regarding their rights, such as psychotherapist-patient privilege and the rape shield rule.
  • Encouragement to the President to ensure that Military Rules of Evidence governing confessions are consistent with civilian rules, so that assailants cannot escape justice for crimes they have admitted to committing.
  • Strengthening of the Special Victims Counsel (SVC) program by expanding representation to Department of Defense civilian employees, ensuring victims of sexual assault are quickly informed of their right to an SVC, and empowering SVCs to assist survivors with communications to the Inspector General or with Congress.