In January, veterans were able to address the House Armed Services Committee regarding crime and non combat death in the military. The testimony was on the heels of what was referred to in the media as the “Lackland Sex Scandal.” The veterans specifically emphasized that crime is military wide and not specific to the Air Force. The veterans also shared that most service members are not reporting because of a fear of retaliation. Shortly after the testimony was given, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the combat exclusion policy was lifted and the media was poised to move in that direction.
Then in March, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand asked for a hearing on Military Sexual Assault with those on the personnel subcommittee to the Senate Armed Services Committee. At that time four other veterans testified and affirmed that removing the Chain of Command would have helped prevent their current situations due to the retaliation.
Senator Gillibrand announced in May that she was going to sponsor the Military Justice Improvement Act, which is a law that would restrict the Commanders from handling violent crimes of over a year or more sentence. She introduced it to the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senator Carl Levin shut the whole thing down. It was at this time that Senator Claire McCaskill, Senator Kelly Ayotte, Senator Jon Tester, Senator Jim Inhofe, and Senator Levin started to fight for the Department of Defense and keep everything status quo.
Right now we are trying to get support from the other Senators to force the MJIA bill back on the table. We have both Democrats and Republicans on board and recently Conservatives like Senator Rand Paul, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Senator Ted Cruz have signed on because they understand the constitutional aspect of this dilemma. We should not be reporting violent crimes to our boss. We should be reporting violent crimes to a legal authority of some sort. One person, ie the Commander, should not have sole discretion over whether or not we proceed with justice.
Please contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to sponsor legislation that mirrors that of the civilian justice system. Victims of crimes should report to police, the police should investigate the claims, the police should enter the information into the FBI national database, and then a prosecutor can make a decision as to whether one can move forward with a case in a court of law. A person’s claim needs to be corroborated in some way so that we have the evidence necessary to go to court, win, and put a criminal behind bars,