WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to ensure the United States military more effectively prevents and responds to sexual assault and harassment in the military, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced his support for changing the role of military commanders in prosecuting service members on sexual assault charges.

At the direction of President Biden, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III ordered a 90-day Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Sexual Assault in the Military.  The IRC has worked quickly on the accountability issue, and its recommendations, as informed by the Secretary of Defense and Services, will be critical in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) process. 

Today, Chairman Reed issued the following statement:

“Sexual assault and harassment are pervasive problems in the U.S. military and American culture and we must take comprehensive action to halt sexual violence, hold violators accountable, and support survivors.

“Senator Gillibrand has long advocated for change and the Commission has largely accepted her proposal on sexual assault.  With that in mind, the IRC’s recommendation to change the role of the chain of command in the prosecution of sexual assault cases will be included in the Chairman’s mark that we will soon take up.  All amendments offered by senators will be fully considered in the full committee markup and on the Senate floor.  At the end of conference, I fully expect a robust change in the role of the commander in sexual assault cases will be sent to President Biden for signature.  While the first round of reform will focus on the issue of accountability, I hope and intend to incorporate the IRC’s recommendations on prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support as we move through the legislative year.

“There must be a major cultural shift within the military and society to stop abusive sexual misconduct.  Sexual assault is an affront to the very values our military stands for and defends.  I will continue working in a bipartisan manner to include meaningful reform in the national defense bill.”

U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, shared the following statement: 

“I agree with Chairman Reed that this important issue deserves robust debate as we consider this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.  I also would like to acknowledge Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this issue.  While I can’t support removing commanders from the decision making process, I appreciate Chairman Reed’s commitment to ensuring this issue is debated and voted on during the full committee markup of the NDAA.”