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Gabbard urges passing military sexual assault bill


Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Dan Benishek (R-MI) wrote Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to express the strong bipartisan support for the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) in the House of Representatives.

The MJIA, which Gabbard and Benishek introduced in the House earlier this year, is expected to come to a vote in the Senate this week.

“Respected military leaders and veterans’ service organizations have lent their support to our careful effort to ensure accountability and end inherent conflicts of interest,” they wrote, highlighting the 181 House members who have supported legislation to remove the decision to prosecute a sexual assault from the chain of command.

Full text of the letter:

November 20, 2013

Dear Sens. Reid and McConnell,

Today, the U.S. Senate may consider amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA) concerning military sexual assault.

As the House sponsors of the Military Justice Improvement Act, companion to the amendment offered by Senator Gillibrand, we write to demonstrate that this proposal has significant bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.

Important progress in the fight against military sexual assault has been made this year in the NDAA and we thank you both for your leadership. However, it is vital that we build on this progress by making the only reform that will ensure that a victim of military sexual assault can bring charges against an assailant without fear of reprisal.

We must empower trained military prosecutors, outside of a victim’s chain of command, to determine whether the evidence exists to bring a case to trial. In total, there are 181 members of the House that have cosponsored various pieces of legislation to accomplish this goal.

We are dedicated to working with our colleagues to gain the support needed to pass this legislation in our chamber.

Respected military leaders and veterans’ service organizations have lent their support to our careful effort to ensure accountability and end inherent conflicts of interest. In September, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services – a widely respected and distinguished committee – issued a recommendation that the Defense Department support efforts to remove the decision to prosecute these violent sexual assaults from the chain of command.

Three retired Generals, including the first woman three-star general in the U.S. Army, have also announced their support for this legislation. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Vietnam Veterans of America have done the same.

As the proud father of a woman who served in the military as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and as a soldier twice deployed with the Hawaii Army National Guard, we join service members, military parents, and all those with loved ones in the military in expressing optimism that this year we will finally live up to our promises and take real steps towards ending military sexual assault.

The hard-working men and women in our armed forces are what make our military the best on earth. We owe them an effective military justice system that guarantees them a fair trial without fear of retaliation.


Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard
Congressman Dan Benishek

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