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Senate Dems differ on ways to prosecute military sexual assaults

June 12, 2013 at 5:13 PM

WASHINGTON, June 12 (UPI) -- Sen. Carl Levin said he would offer a plan requiring senior U.S. military officers to review decisions to prosecute sexual assault cases in the military.

The amendment to the 2014 Defense Authorization Act offered Tuesday by the Michigan Democrat would replace one submitted by Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., which would remove major military crimes from the chain of command, MSNBC reported, adding the Senate is about to battle over how to reduce the rise of sexual assaults in the military.

Levin's proposal is similar to changes made last year by then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, which placed authority to investigate, and convene a court martial, in the hands of high-ranking military officers.

Nancy Parrish, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, called Levin's proposal "another half-measure that will essentially kick the can down the road. It is the low-level commanders who hold the initial disposition authority that can prevent a sexual assault case from ever moving forward."

A Pentagon report, released in May, estimated the number of service members reporting unwanted sexual contact rose from 19,000 in 2011 to 26,000 in 2012.

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