A Republican senator and retired military attorney disagrees with the effort by some of his colleagues to pass a bill that would take away the authority of commanders to oversee cases related to sex crimes in the military.
This week Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) added their names to the list of sponsors for legislation authored by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand that would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial. She says she wants to overhaul the military justice system to stem the tide of sexual assault.
The bill now has the support of 33 senators, one third of the Senate; it includes Democrats Barbara Boxer (California) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), as well as Republicans Charles Grassley (Iowa) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Gillibrand claims the bipartisan coalition lining up behind her Military Justice Improvement Act proves it “is not a Democratic or Republican idea” but “just the right idea.”
But Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), who is a retired JAG officer with the United States Air Force and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, opposes Gillibrand's legislation.
"We don't need to harm the chain of command's ability to enforce good order and discipline,” he argues. “We can put some checks and balances there, but I think the advocates such as Senator Gillibrand – and now she does have a few Republican supporters there – I think they're still in the minority.
“There are a good many senators, Republican and Democrat, who see that the system through the Uniformed Code of Military Justice worked pretty well,” Wicker continues. “So I think we'll win on that. I think we'll get tough on sexual harassment, but we'll preserve the system."
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, also opposes Gillibrand's bill, which could be debated on the Senate floor as soon as this month.