Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will make another big push on her amendment to take major military crimes (including sexual assault) outside the military chain of command on Monday. She has the backing of at least 47 senators, but the Democratic Party doesn't agree on the amendment. Competing proposals, especially one from Sen. Claire McCaskill, have kept the Senate from agreeing on a plan to send to the House. Even Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel can't explain how to reduce the number of sexual assaults in the military (an estimated 26,000 in 2011):
"Because it is the culture. It is the institution. It’s the people within that institution that have to fix the problem, and that’s the culture. The people are the culture. So I don’t know how you disconnect that from the accountability of command."
Hagel produced that bit of word salad in June when speaking out against Gillibrand's amendment.
McCaskill's amendment doesn't take sexual assault cases outside the military chain of command, but it does stop commanders from overturning jury verdicts and mandate that anyone convicted of sexual assault be dishonorably discharged or dismissed. Her amendment has the support of Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin and the Pentagon.