**STATEMENT*** Senate and House Armed Services Committees Furthers Justice for Military Sexual Assault Survivors in 2023 NDAA Markup
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2022
Senate and House Armed Services Committees Furthers Justice for Military Sexual Assault Survivors in 2023 NDAA Markup
Protect Our Defenders commends the HASC and SASC’s continuation of key reforms made to the military justice system with 2022 NDAA; encourages further protection of sexual assault survivors
Washington, DC – The House and Senate Armed Services Committees recently announced major provisions in the initial markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023. Provisions build on last year’s historic reform, which gave independent military prosecutors prosecutorial authority in cases of sexual assault, rape, and more, as well as significant sentencing reform, enhanced victim’s rights, and the criminilization of sexual harrassment. The 2023 markups fills gaps in last year’s reform as well as creates new provisions, including to:
- Take sexual harassment charging decisions out of the chain of command.
- Require improved sharing of evidence with victims of military crimes.
- Enhance military justice reform by adding death or injury of an unborn child and mailing obscene materials to the covered offenses under the jurisdiction of the Special Trial Counsel.
- Transfer prosecutorial decisions, such as hiring expert witnesses, from convening authorities to independent prosecutors.
- Require the Department of Defense to conduct an annual assessment of the impact of military justice reform beginning in 2025.
- Mandate additional reporting of each states’ National Guard compliance with sexual assault, sexual harassment, and suicide prevention and response laws and DoD policies.
As the most transformative military justice reform in our nation’s history, the bipartisan legislation contained in the 2022 NDAA was a critical step to ending the decades-long military sexual assault crisis and paved the way for continued reform in 2023.
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United States Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC)’s expansion of military justice reform for sexual assault survivors is only possible because of the work of advocates, survivors, and bipartisan legislators committed to transforming the military’s archaic and biased justice system.
“The FY23 NDAA markup builds on the most significant military justice reform ever passed. Last year’s reforms left a number of critical prosecutorial and judicial decisions with convening authorities. The reforms adopted by both the HASC and SASC will move these decisions outside of the chain of command to those best suited to make these weighty decisions. These critical fixes would address complaints that the 2022 NDAA left too much authority within the chain of command. Additionally, both the HASC and SASC markups move more crimes such as causing the death of an unborn child under the authority of the independent prosecutor.
“Requiring the Secretary of Defense – through the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office – to provide for the coordinated distribution and referral of information on the availability of resources provided by civilian legal services organizations to military-connected sexual assault victims is key to survivors obtaining justice. We are grateful for the continued leadership of Representative Speier and Senator Gillibrand and their commitment to the safety of all servicemembers and survivors.
“Protect Our Defenders was founded ten years ago to be a voice for military sexual assault survivors. For the past decade, we have worked tirelessly alongside survivors, advocates, and allies to improve the military criminal justice system, while also addressing racial disparity within that system. Protect Our Defenders will continue to fight for reform to ensure that military sexual assault survivors are protected by an impartial system of justice.”