Military leaders are more receptive to the House provisions, would strip commanders of the discretion to reverse a court-martial ruling, except in cases involving minor offenses. Commanders also would be barred from reducing a guilty finding by a court-martial to guilty of a lesser offense.
The measure also would require that anyone found guilty of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy or an attempt to commit any of those offenses receive a punishment that includes a dismissal from military service or a dishonorable discharge.
The legislation eliminates the five-year statute of limitations on trial by court-martial for sexual assault and sexual assault of a child. It also establishes the authority for military legal counsel to provide legal assistance to victims of sex-related offenses and requires enhanced training for all military and civilian attorneys involved in sex-related cases.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., applauded the committee’s action. But she said she would continue to push for even broader changes to better protect victims.
Speier has introduced separate legislation that would take the reporting and investigation of sexual assaults out of the military’s normal chain of command. The bill would create an autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office comprised of civilian and military experts. Speier said she will offer her bill as an amendment on the House floor.
‘‘Unless we increase the number of prosecutions and the number of convictions, they we have not achieved the goal,’’ she said. ‘‘We have not sanitized the military of sexual predators.’’