Military Sexual Assault Debated on Senate Floor

The Senate is currently debating the National Defense Authorization Act on the Senate floor. Discussion is heavily centered around the issue of military sexual assault and the related amendments to the NDAA. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) is a hot topic because support is split within both parties and across the Armed Services Committee.

Senator Claire McCaskill, who does not support the MJIA, just made a compelling speech about the need for bipartisan cooperation that transcends the relatively polarizing MJIA. According to Senator McCaskill, the many other measures to address military sexual assault in the Senate are historic and should be recognized.

In particular, the amendment to assign a defense counsel to every servicemember who reports a sexual assault is a historic measure that will  make the US military the “most victim-friendly military in the world.”

I can’t confirm that this will make us the most victim-friendly military in the world, but Senator McCaskill’s frustration is well-taken. The current debate about military sexual assault is indeed an exceedingly rare bipartisan effort in our current political environment. Debate on the MJIA is important–and as I’ve made clear, I support the MJIA–but it’s imperative that we maintain a focus on policy that improves outcomes while meeting human rights obligations. MJIA is only one component of that.

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