Sexual assaults force changes to military justice

Associated Press + More

By DONNA CASSATA and RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is weighing changes to the decades-old military justice system as lawmakers seek to curb the rising number of sexual assaults in the armed services.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and officers heading each branch of the military will testify at a hearing Tuesday on proposals that would limit the authority of commanders to discipline their forces.

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand supports ambitious legislation that would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes — including sexual misconduct cases — go to trial. That judgment would rest with seasoned trial counsels who hold the rank of colonel or above.

But the military leaders are concerned that stripping commanders of some authority would make it difficult for them to maintain discipline.

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