WASHINGTON-U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) successfully included her bipartisan effort to prevent military sexual assault and hold perpetrators accountable into the annual defense bill, bringing it one step closer to passage. Ernst helped lead the military reform legislation along with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)-with the support of over sixty of their Senate colleagues.
'This historic reform is long overdue. Not only will our bipartisan work help ensure our servicemembers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, but it will help prevent these horrific abuses from happening in the first place. As a former military commander and sexual assault survivor, I am proud of our work and look forward to helping get this legislation signed into law,' said Senator Ernst.
The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision to prosecute from the chain of command to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors. The bill also provides for several new prevention provisions such as more and better training for commanders and increased physical security measures, while ensuring that commanders still have the ability to provide strong leadership and ensure a successful command climate.
To read Ernst's op-ed in The Hill on the landmark legislation, click here.
The annual defense bill, the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act, passed the Senate Armed Services Committee this week. The bill also includes several amendments based on recommendations offered by the Pentagon's Independent Review Commission.
Background on Ernst's work to combat military sexual assault:
Ernst has worked to combat sexual assault in the military since first arriving to the Senate in 2015. Ernst successfully included her Military Retaliation Prevention Actin the FY2017 annual defense bill to help reduce retaliation by peers of survivors after coming forward.
In the FY2020 NDAA, Ernst worked to expand support for victims of military sexual assault and domestic violence and provide senior commanders with more oversight responsibilities to most effectively prosecute these serious offenses.
Ernst's efforts in the FY2021 NDAA worked to make military courts handling criminal sexual assault cases more professional and lower the barriers for servicemembers to report sexual assault. It also included the Coast Guard Academy as part of the Defense Advisory Committee on the Prevention of Sexual Assault.