The defense authorization bill the Senate passed Thursday, passed by the House last week, contains a package of relatively strong measures to address the sexual assault problem in the military, but stops short of including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's proposal to give military prosecutors decision-making authority over prosecutions for the most serious crimes. That bill is expected to get a Senate vote next month; in the mean time, the defense authorization already passed:
... would end the statute of limitations for cases of sexual assault or rape; bar military commanders from overturning jury convictions in sexual assault and rape cases; make it a crime to retaliate against people who report such crimes; mandate the dishonorable discharge or dismissal of anyone convicted of such crimes; and give civilian defense officials more control over prosecutions.Those are significant advances, though, as Sen. Claire McCaskill noted, "In the months and years ahead, vigilance will be required to ensure that these historic reforms are implemented forcefully and effectively." Vigilance will be required due in part to the military's traditional efforts to thwart change. And continuing pressure will be needed to ensure that Gillibrand's Military Justice Improvement Act gets a vote.