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Retired Generals Back Sen. Gillibrand's Military Anti-Sexual Assault Proposal

Retired Generals Back Sen. Gillibrand's Military Anti-Sexual Assault Proposal

September 23, 2013 — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-N.Y.) proposal to overhaul the military's handling of sexual assaults has gained the support of three retired generals, Politico reports (Samuelsohn, Politico, 9/23).

Under Gillibrand's measure, military cases involving crimes punishable by more than one year of confinement would be removed from the chain of command. She aims to attach the proposal to a larger defense authorization bill (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/9).

Top Pentagon officials oppose Gillibrand's proposal. She also faces resistance from some Senate colleagues, including Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who say the nearly two dozen anti-sexual assault amendments already in the defense bill are sufficient.

A Gillibrand aide said she will cite the retried generals' support in meetings this week with undecided senators. The generals sent letters to Gillibrand outlining their positions and offering to lobby for her proposal ahead of a vote on the underlying bill later this year.

Letter Excerpts

The letters, obtained by Politico, are from retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the first female three-star Army general; retired Brig. Gen. David McGinnis, a former Obama administration Pentagon official; and retired Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, formerly the Army's highest-ranking psychiatrist.

Kennedy wrote that "the Defense Department's time to solve the problem on its own has expired," adding, "Civilian and uniformed military leaders have had absolute discretion and power to make changes," but they "have not fixed the problem and have not stopped retaliation suffered by survivors who report the crimes committed against them."

Sutton said the "failure to achieve these reforms would be a further tragedy to an already sorrowful history of inattention and ineptitude concerning military sexual assault."

McGinnis wrote that Gillibrand's measure would help to correct the "historic lack of sincerity within the Department of Defense on issues relating to women in the military" (Politico, 9/23).