Jul 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden backs removing sexual assault cases from military chain of command

President Joe Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, July 2, 2021.

Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday he supports the U.S. military removing sexual harassment and assault cases from the chain of command and instead creating "highly specialized units to handle these cases and related crimes."

The big picture: The reorganization comes amid growing criticism on Capitol Hill over the military's ineffectiveness at preventing incidences of sexual assault and harassment in the ranks, which have more than doubled in the past decade, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Driving the news: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last month that he supports changes to the military justice system for sexual assault cases.

  • The Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault (IRC) on Friday published 28 recommendations and 54 sub-recommendations, including equipping leaders with data, people, resources, policy and tools to stop sexual assault and the development of a prevention workforce, according to senior administration officials.

What he's saying: "I strongly support Secretary Austin’s announcement that he is accepting the core recommendations put forward by the ... [IRC], including removing the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault from the chain of command and creating highly specialized units to handle these cases and related crimes," Biden said in a statement.

  • "We need concrete actions that fundamentally change the way we handle military sexual assault and that make it clear that these crimes will not be minimized or dismissed."
  • "We will also prioritize effective prevention strategies; promote safe, healthy, and respectful climates; and improve services to address the trauma that sexual assault victims experience and to facilitate their healing and recovery."

Worth noting: "Biden's decision could take until 2023 to implement, and his Democratic administration stopped short of endorsing legislation by the leading advocate of the change in the Senate, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, whose bill would also make broader military justice reforms," Reuters writes.

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