Kirsten Gillibrand Slams Sexual Assault Panel's Decision on Commander's Role 

Senator questions sexual assault panel's priorities.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., listens Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to reporters during a news conference about a bill regarding military sexual assault cases on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.,Tuesday, July 16, 2013.

The Military Justice Improvement Act, introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.,  would strip senior officers of their current responsibility to oversee sexual assault cases under their command.

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One of the leading voices in reforming military laws that have resulted in an overwhelming number of sexual assaults blasted the Thursday decision by a panel studying the contentious issue.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is still pushing for a vote on her Military Justice Improvement Act, which would among other reforms strip senior officers of their current responsibility to oversee sexual assault cases under their command. An outside panel studying the problem issued a preliminary ruling Thursday that commanders should keep this right.

[READ: Former Top Officers Say Internet Age Limits Meddling in Sexual Assault Cases]

Critics of the panel and advocates for victims' rights have questioned the supposed transparency of this group, which conducts most of its meetings in private.

"There is nothing surprising about a Pentagon sub-panel working mostly behind closed doors supporting stated Pentagon policy and encouraging more time to wait and see if the problem gets better," said James Rahm, a spokesman for Gillibrand in an email.

The Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel was called for by the secretary of Defense and mandated by Congress. It convened last June, and has held a total of five public meetings including Thursday's. All other business has been held behind closed doors, with transcripts published sometimes months later.

"We have waited for too long, because under any metric, the system is broken and our service members deserve better," Rahm said.

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