Levin: Fewer Sex Assault Cases Would Be Prosecuted Under Independent Counsel

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) on Wednesday introduced his measure to replace Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) proposal removing sexual assault cases from the military chain of command with a provision that would allow senior commanders to review cases.

Levin argued in an Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense Authorization Act that removing the prosecution of sexual assault cases from the chain of command would actually hinder prosecution of such cases.

“Removing prosecution decisions from the chain of command would likely weaken our response to sexual assault by taking the responsibility for prosecution away from military commanders – who are actually more likely to prosecute – and instead transferring the responsibility to military lawyers – who are less likely to do so,” Levin said. “We learned last week that military commanders have often prosecuted sexual assault cases even when civilian authorities declined to do so.  We also learned that military commanders have insisted on prosecuting sexual assault cases even when the military lawyers recommended against proceeding.”

Levin added that to truly change the culture of sexual assault in the armed forces–“a culture that has taken inadequate steps to address the situation”–commanders must be allowed to serve discipline in such cases.

“It is harder to hold someone accountable for failure to act if you reduce their power to act,” he said.