Responding to growing reports of sexual abuse and harassment within the United States military, U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) announced today he will take a leading role by working on both sides of the aisle to address sexual violence in the armed services. He outlined his plan to find solutions, hold perpetrators accountable, and protect victims from retaliation.
His plans include co-sponsoring "a number of bills" on the issue, and pushing for a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act. One of the bills he intends to support is the Murray-Ayotte Sexual Assault bill, a bipartisan piece of legislation from Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), which will establish a special military counsel to provide legal advice and assistance requested by any military sexual assault victim. The law will require cases to be automatically referred to a general or admiral to ensure greater oversight. The bill will allow cases to be shifted outside of the chain of command if an appropriate investigation does not occur in a timely fashion.
Udall will also co-sponsor a bill from Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) which would require a comprehensive review of the level of training by Department of Defense personnel regarding sexual violence. The bill will call for formal minimum levels of training, qualifications and experience in the areas of sexual assault prevention and response. Senator Udall has previously worked in this area; in 2012's National Defense Authorization Act, he supported the establishment of a panel of experts that will provide recommendations for reducing the numbers of sexual assault within the military.
On his announcement, Udall stated,
"As a father, a Coloradan and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am angered by the failure to stem the tide of sexual assaults in the military. The good order and discipline of our armed forces and the safety of our troops is being threatened from within. We need to make clear that there will be zero tolerance for these horrific crimes and the people who commit them — just as we should in civilian society."
Udall continued, "I will work with my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee to ensure that this year's National Defense Authorization Act takes bold and productive action to solve this problem. Senators from both sides of the aisle have been collaborating on a number of proposals to address the issue. We need policies that preserve cohesion and morale by ensuring that military survivors of sexual assault are confident they will be protected by their chains of command and that their perpetrators will be effectively prosecuted.”
Senator Udall sits on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.