Heads of every branch of the U.S. military are testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, as Senators consider bills that would change the military justice system.
There were 3,374 reported sexual assaults in the U.S. military last year and another 23,000 unreported ones, according to Pentagon estimates. Both numbers are up from previous years.
Senators including Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland want the military to change the way it deals with sexual assault cases and other serious crimes.
Under legislation they are proposing, military commanders would no longer have the power to decide whether sexual harassment cases go to trial.
Opponents of the idea include Republicans Jim Inhofe and Buck Mckeon, who argue that taking commanders out of the process will have unintended and bad consequences, such as undermining the relationship between troops and the commanders who make decisions that send them into battle.
Politico "While senators like Gillibrand are grabbing headlines for keeping the cause front-and-center in Washington, they will still need to win over colleagues reluctant to impose such a fundamental shift at the Pentagon."
Washington Post "The contrast — six male military chiefs appearing before a committee stacked with more women than ever before — will provide the latest proof of how the expanding role and influence of women in Congress is reshaping policy debates on Capitol Hill."
- Philip Ewing, defense editor for Politico.
This segment aired on June 4, 2013.