By Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden “110%” backs legislative initiative to reform the military justice system to better serve victims of sexual assault and other major crimes, the project champion said Thursday law, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Gillibrand’s remarks to defense reporters came nearly two weeks after Biden approved a key piece of his legislation: making decisions about whether to prosecute sexual assaults against military commanders and hand them over to independent prosecutors.
But Biden and his Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have not publicly supported Gillibrand’s bill, which would also remove other serious crimes like murder from the chain of command.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Many US military officials have long hesitated to take power away from commanders.
Gillibrand said she received a congratulatory call from Biden when she reached 66 co-sponsors for his legislation. She declined to provide many details of that call, but strongly suggested that she and Biden were closely related.
“There was an indication that he would like to sign this into law. So I think the president is 110 percent backing what we’re doing,” she told the Defense Writers Group.
At another point, she said: “I don’t think we are against the administration at all.
Gillibrand’s bill was blocked for Senate consideration by the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee over fears it was too radical.
Gillibrand noted Pentagon data showing that the military justice system had failed not only women, but members of the minority service. Data shows that minorities are much more likely to face charges than their white peers.
“In the Marines, for example, you are 2.61 times more likely to be sentenced to a General Court Martial, which tends to be handed down for more serious crimes with harsher sentences,” she said. declared.
Democratic Representative Anthony Brown, a retired Army Reserve Colonel and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, has expressed strong support for the broader overhaul of complementary legislation passed by the House of Representatives.
“The current military justice system does not serve our nation’s superior values of justice, fairness and fairness,” Brown wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.
“It has put the military men at a disadvantage and left them under a system controlled by the commander that they do not trust.”
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