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Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe argues against bill to change military justice process for sexual assaults

In a letter, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee says it would be a grave mistake to take commanders out of the decision-making process.
by Chris Casteel Published: July 27, 2013

Sen. Jim Inhofe stepped up his fight Friday against a proposal to remove U.S. military commanders from the process of determining how sexual assault cases are handled.

Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to his GOP colleagues in the Senate seeking to counter what he called “misconceptions” about sexual assaults in the military. And he said lawmakers should wait for the recommendations from an independent panel before making changes to the military justice system.

Inhofe, of Tulsa, said in his letter that it would be “a grave mistake” to remove sexual assault cases from the chain of command and would provide no benefit to “those vulnerable victims who each of us want to support.”

In the wake of several controversies over sexual assault in the military — including a case in which the conviction of a pilot was overturned by a general — New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has gathered bipartisan support for legislation that would give more authority to independent military prosecutors.

Gillibrand's office released a fact sheet this week that said her legislation “seeks to reverse the systemic fear that numerous victims of military sexual assault have told us they have in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them due to the clear bias and inherent conflicts of interest posed by the military chain of command's current sole decision-making power.”

The senator's fact sheet cited a study showing that “25% of women and 27% of men who received unwanted sexual contact indicated the offender was someone in their military chain of command.”

Gillibrand, a Democrat, said she has 44 senators backing her bill; she needs 51.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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