WASHINGTON — The Senate Armed Services Committee adopted two proposals this week from Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., aimed at fighting sexual assault in the military.
“The sexual assault crisis in our military is simply unacceptable,” Fischer said. “As I have said all along, this is not a gender issue, it is a violence issue.”
Her amendments were incorporated into the annual legislation that sets out the country's defense policies, a measure that was approved by the committee Thursday and is now headed to the full Senate.
The House was moving to finish its version of the legislation by today.
Fischer described the final product of the Senate committee as “meaningful legislative change that will make a real difference” in addressing the crisis.
One of her amendments, co-authored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., places into the Manual for Courts Martial the Victims' Bill of Rights, which already exists in the criminal code.
Fischer said that move guarantees victims' right to be informed about and speak at legal proceedings, while still protecting their privacy.
She also authored an amendment with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to require more rigorous screening and certification of sexual assault prevention and response officers.
There have been several scandals recently in which officials running the military's prevention programs were themselves accused of the kinds of misconduct they are supposed to be stopping.
Fischer also supported a proposal by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., to require higher-level reviews of decisions by commanders not to pursue sexual assault prosecutions.
Levin also would make it a crime to retaliate against victims for reporting an assault.
Levin's proposal fell short of what's being sought by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and others. They want to see sexual assault cases completely removed from the military chain of command.
Gillibrand's proposal did not garner enough support in committee but is likely to come up again when the legislation reaches the Senate floor.
The measure approved Thursday includes $625 billion for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The funding matches the amount requested by the Obama administration.
This article includes material from Bloomberg News.
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