Defense Secretary supports changes addressing sexual assault charges

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, for the first time, said Tuesday he will support long-debated changes to the military justice system that would remove decisions on prosecuting sexual assault cases from military commanders.

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June 23, 2021 - 9:04 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, for the first time, said Tuesday he will support long-debated changes to the military justice system that would remove decisions on prosecuting sexual assault cases from military commanders.

In a statement, obtained by The Associated Press, Austin said he supports taking those sexual assault and related crimes away from the chain of command, and let independent military lawyers handle them. The Pentagon has long resisted such a change, but Austin and other senior leaders are slowly acknowledging that the military has failed to make progress against sexual assault, and some changes are needed.

Austin pledged to work with Congress to make the changes, saying they will give the department “real opportunities to finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.” His public support for the shift has been eagerly awaited, sending a strong signal to the military and boosting momentum for the change.

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