The Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee has approved a bill to change the military justice system to help stop the growing number of sexual assaults in the military.
Senior military leaders say some of the measure's components are too drastic and will undermine commanders' ability to enforce discipline. However, the bill's cosponsor, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, says changes in the armed forces' legal code are needed to fight the increase of sexual assaults in the ranks.
If the bill is passed, commanders would be taken out of the decision of whether or not to take serious crimes like sexual misconduct cases to trial.
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont said Tuesday Congress is thinking about taking away the military's authority to prosecute sexual assault cases and giving it to state prosecutors.
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel the current practices were not acceptable while the military continues to deal with a rash of sexual assaults.
Hagel, however, told Leahy changes would be made to address the issue and a specially appointed panel will meet in two weeks to discuss those reforms.
Congress is already moving forward with some changes, including taking away commanders' authority to overturn sexual assault convictions.
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