The Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), championed by Senator Kirsten Gilibrand (D-NY), was once again blocked by the Senate in a vote yesterday.
Gilibrand filed the MJIA as an amendment to the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bipartisan amendment, which would move the decision of whether to prosecute serious crimes in the military including sexual assault, from the chain-of-command and give responsibility to independent military prosecutors, was introduced with 25 cosponsors, including 6 Republicans.
Although the MJIA received a majority of votes, it fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. This is the second year in a row the Senate has blocked this legislation.
Sexual assault in the military is a serious problem that, although the Department of Defense has recognized and promised reform, DOD data show that little has changed in both the number of assaults per year and the retaliation against those who report assault. These data show that the number of military members who experience sexual assault has remained largely the same, and more troubling, that the retaliation rate against those who do report has increased.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is leading Senate opposition to Gilibrand’s bill, aiming to keep procedural responses to sexual assault within the military. McCaskill cites a slight drop in the number of assault and the small rise in the number of reported incidents as proof that military justice reforms are showing progress.
Senator Gilibrand and the 49 that voted with her yesterday are not convinced, and Gilibrand says that she will not give up. In a statement, she wrote:
“While I’m incredibly disappointed by the outcome, it comes with a silver lining: We counted five new Senators among our “yes” votes- growing our bipartisan coalition and making clear to the military that we will not quit until our work is done.”
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 12/12/14; Protectourdefenders.com DoD Fact Sheet 2014; Military Times 6/16/15;