Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has long called for President Obama to step up efforts to address sexual assault in the military, renewed her call Tuesday for the president to take executive action to help address what she calls a still-pervasive problem in the armed services.
“I'm very frustrated with the White House,” she said during a press conference.
Gillibrand is trying to get cases of sexual assault moved from outside the military justice chain of command to trained, independent military prosecutors.
She said that Obama could call for this change himself, but until then, she would seek to get legislation on his desk that would have the same effect.
“I've spoken to the president directly about this issue and what I'm frustrated about is he is the Commander in Chief. So he could change this rule all by himself,” she said in a press conference about her bill, the Military Justice Improvement Act, which will be voted on as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act bill later this week.
The bill, which has bipartisan support, fell 10 votes short of a 60-vote threshold last year as an amendment to the NDAA, but Gillibrand said she was hopeful that it would pass this time as new information about the military’s treatment of sexual assault had come to light.
She accused the Department of Defense of overstating the work it’s done to crack down on sexual assault and prosecute cases in the past year, citing a review her office conducted of 329 sexual assault cases files from 2014 that found just 22 percent of the cases went to trial and 10 percent of all cases resulted in sexual assault convictions.
“It’s clear from the data and case files the Defense Department has given us that little has changed, despite their persistent claims that things are getting better,” she said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the Department of Defense’s report to Congress earlier this month on sexual assault, Acting Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Peter Levine wrote that while there has been progress within the military to prevent and prosecute sexual assault, “more must be done to eliminate this crime.”