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WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: On the Results of the Independent Review Commission on Military Sexual Assault

July 04, 2021

On Friday, President Biden released a statement on the results of the Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Military Sexual Assault. The President strongly supports Secretary Austin's decision to accept the core recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Military Sexual Assault.

He thanked Lynn Rosenthal for her leadership and the experts, service members and military leadership who informed the work of the IRC. He also recognized Senator Gillibrand, Senator Ernst, Representative Speier, and Representative Mullin for their bipartisan efforts. Most of all, the President expressed his gratitude for the survivors who shared their stories with the world and advocated for reform.

While this is just the beginning, this will be among the most significant reforms to our military in recent history, and President Biden remains committed to this effort.

See below for what they are saying:

Current and Former Officials

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin: We must do more as a Department to counter the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our military. Today, I'm directing the @DeptofDefense to move forward on several reforms on this front. Among them, working with Congress to directly amend the UCMJ by:

  • Removing the prosecution of sexual assaults and related crimes, domestic violence, child abuse, and retaliation from the military chain of command.
  • Adding sexual harassment as an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCJM).
  • Creating dedicated offices within the Secretariat of each Military Department to handle the prosecution of these special crimes with appropriate legal oversight and guidance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, consistent with existing practices.
  • And across all four lines of our Independent Review Commission's effort, I have directed @DepSecDef to develop an implementation roadmap for my review within 60 days. Now is the time to lead. And we will lead. [Tweet Thread, 7/2/2021]

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth: "@USArmy looks forward to working with @DeptofDefense to implement directed reforms. These changes will help us take care of our Soldiers and build on changes we are already making. Our Soldiers and their Families are our #1 priority. We will lead. #PeopleFirst" [Tweet, 7/2/21]

Members

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: "It's an historic sign of progress that @SecDef has agreed to remove sexual assault prosecutions from the chain of command. However, the murder of Vanessa Guillén and the deep racial disparities in the military justice system show that the need for reform is far broader. [Tweet, 7/2/21]

Representative Jackie Speier: "The @SecDef ‘s call to remove cases of sexual assault from the chain of command shows the monumental shift in DoD's attitude & approach to reforming military justice, something I've fought 10+ years for & is included in my I am Vanessa Guillén Act. But more must be done. [Tweet, 7/2/21]

Representative Adam Smith: "President Biden and Secretary Austin have been very clear about their commitment to address sexual assault in the military, and the decision to adopt the recommendations of the IRC is proof that they are treating this issue with the urgency it deserves. As I have said, the scourge of sexual assault in our military must come to an end, and after years of trying and failing to address the problem the time has come to remove the prosecution of sexual assault crimes from the chain of command. As Congress considers the legislative path forward to implement reforms to address sexual assault in the military, the House Armed Services Committee will convene a public hearing so that members can hear directly from the IRC. I look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration and my colleagues in Congress to identify the best policy solution for our service members and deliver results." [Full Statement, 7/2/21]

Groups

Time's Up: "We commend the work of the Commission, the extraordinary leadership of Lynn Rosenthal, and the team of experts whose contributions have given us a real chance to finally address the broken systems that have fostered the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment in our armed forces for far too long. We agree that anything less than transparent, meaningful change is unacceptable for our service members and see the administration's support for these recommendations as a tipping point in making our nation better, safer, and more equitable for all.[Tweet, Full Statement, 7/2/21]

Tracey E. Vitchers, It's on Us: "Critical step in the right direction for combatting military sexual assault and holding perpetrators accountable. Congrats to @Lynnspeaksout, @C_A_Crockett & the entire IRC team on this Herculean moment!" [Tweet, 7/2/21]

VoteVets: "Thank you, @POTUS! Victims of sexual assault in our military should always receive justice." [Tweet, 7/2/12]

National Alliance to End Sexual Violence: "Today, the Department of Defense released their recommendations and complete report from the 90-day Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, a commission that developed solutions to addressing sexual assault in the military. You can find Secretary Austin's guidance on the recommendations here and the White House statement here.
NAESV welcomes the Independent Review Commission Recommendations on Countering Sexual Assault in the Military and believe these are very important policy directions to make a difference in the response to sexual assault and support for survivors. We commend the work of the IRC and believe that this kind of leadership and systemic effort moves us forward as a nation in addressing and preventing sexual assault and harassment.[Tweet, Full Statement, 7/2/21]

Protect Our Defenders: "President Biden said Friday that he wanted the military to remove the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases from the control of commanders, a sea change for the military justice system." [Tweet, 7/2/21]

Jen Hogg, SWAN: "Amazing. All the survivors, and especially those who endured telling their stories over and over, have worked so hard to see this. Each in their own way have pushed forward, and we owe it to them to not let this turn into empty rhetoric. @Servicewomen" [Tweet, 7/2/21]

SWAN: "Washington D.C. –– The report of the Independent Review Commission (IRC) on sexual assault in the military "Hard Truths and the Duty to Change: Recommendations from the Independent Review Commission Sexual Assault in the Military," released on July 2nd, is the most comprehensive look to date at the underlying cultural, leadership, and legal causes of military's inability to prevent sexual assault and harassment within its ranks or to deal effectively with its aftermath. The report also provides thoughtful, feasible recommendations for transforming the military's justice system; its unit and service cultural climates; its leadership development programs at all levels, and its support for the victims of sexual assault.

This report is not a magical incantation for vanishing sexual assault that can be quickly read and filed away. It should be read as a blueprint for the infrastructure Congress, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the leaders of each service must build together if they genuinely want to end the blight of military sexual assault. It will take time, funding, changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and profound changes to each service's unit cultures. It can be done, but will it be?" [Full Statement, Not posted]

Commentators

Molly O'Toole, LA Times: "So many survivors have been pushing & waiting for decades for a statement like this out of WH:"I want to recognize the experience of our service members who have survived sexual assault & the bravery of those who have shared their stories with the world & advocated for reform" [Tweet, 7/2/21]

Joseph R. Biden, WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: On the Results of the Independent Review Commission on Military Sexual Assault Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/350717

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