Washington, DC – Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator Reed, adopted the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA) and announced that the bipartisan legislation will be included in the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act. The bipartisan legislation — which would remove prosecutorial authority regarding serious crimes like sexual assault and murder outside of the chain of command thereby empowering independent prosecutors — is one of the most substantial reforms to the military justice system in modern U.S. history.
In addition to MJIIPA which was sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), where a filibuster-proof majority has given their support, the bill includes several provisions based on the Independent Review Commission, as well as important reforms by Senator Tillis (R-NC). Two reforms in particular have long been identified by Protect Our Defenders as major legislative priorities in service of military sexual assault survivors. These include:
Mandate that all sentencing for non-capital offenses be conducted by a military judge
Require the President to issue regulations to include sexual harassment as a standalone offense punishable under the UCMJ
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United States Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“These are the most substantial reforms proposed to the U.S. military justice system in modern history. Sweeping reform will ensure the health and safety of our servicemembers, while improving military recruitment and retention. No rape victim’s boss should decide whether they get justice or not.
“We are grateful Senator Reed has chosen the right side of history by moving Senator Gillibrand’s transformative legislation forward, as well as to every single cosponsor of the bill who has helped drive real reform, including Senators Ernst, Hawley, and Grassley. Senator Gillibrand’s relentless fight for justice on behalf of our servicemembers is so close to being realized.
“This legislation represents a major step forward in finally addressing the military’s decades long sexual assault epidemic by reforming a deeply flawed military justice system. Shifting prosecutorial authority from commanders to independent prosecutors will help survivors receive justice and increase trust in an institution they dedicate their lives to will protect them in return.”