WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military on Thursday opened a new chapter in how it investigates and prosecutes cases of sexual assault and other major crimes, putting independent lawyers in charge of those decisions and sidelining commanders after years of pressure from Congress.
The change, long resisted by Pentagon leaders, was finally forced by frustrated members of Congress who believed that too often commanders would fail to take victims’ complaints seriously or would try to protect alleged perpetrators in their units.
The new law was fueled by a persistent increase in sexual assaults and harassment across the military. The Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Navy all saw reported sexual assaults go up last year, but a sharp 9% drop in reports from the Army — the largest military service — drove the overall number down. In 2021, reported assaults spiked by 13%.