The U.S. Senate is quietly moving towards a vote on a plan to curb sexual assaults in the military by moving sexual assault cases and other major criminal allegations out of the military justice system and into civilian courts, a move former Pentagon official Jed Babbin claims creates a whole set of new problems without doing anything to solve the rising number of assaults.
The plan is sponsored by New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and is breaking down along unusual lines. Tea party favorite and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz supports the bill while Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin are opposed.
“This is a very bad idea. It upsets the entire United States Uniformed Code of Military Justice and overturns roughly 60 years of UCMJ proceedings,” said Babbin.
Gillibrand’s thesis is that military commanders cannot be trusted to handle these serious allegations given the rising number of assaults and steps need to be taken to ensure justice is done. Babbin says moving serious crimes out of military courts is a terrible precedent.
“What Gillibrand is trying to do here is take the military justice out of that business and say we’re going to have a separate class of protected people, the victims of sexual assault, and we’re going to give them civilian lawyers and a whole separate civilian process. It’s bad for the military. It’s bad for order and discipline,” said Babbin, who further asserts that commanders are the best people to have in charge of handling these serious allegations.
“Commanders understand what’s going on. They understand what the context of these offenses are. They can hear things and see things and learn things that they’ll never be able to do in the civilian world,” said Babbin.
Babbin, a former Air Force JAG officer himself, says he doesn’t know a single JAG officer in any branch who doesn’t investigate sexual assaults vigorously. He further points out that the chief of staff of every military branch is staunchly opposed to the bill.
So if commanders looking the other way isn’t the problem, why are we seeing record number of sexual assaults reported in the military? Babbin says it’s because of political correctness running amok in the Armed Forces.
“The numbers are rising, quite frankly, because an awful lot of women are now serving with men in close conditions. You now have women serving on submarines, which has never been true up until about two years ago. You have a situation where people are under stress, they’re working in very close conditions and things are going to happen,” said Babbin. “The biggest problem is not the offensive nature of sexual assaults. The biggest problem is consensual sex.
“I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who used to be the skipper of a nuclear aircraft carrier and that was his problem,” he said.
It isn’t clear what the fate of the Gillibrand bill will be in the U.S. Senate. Babbin does not expect the House to consider anything similar, but if it passes the Senate lawmakers in both chambers will contend with the legislation as part of the must-pass Defense Authorization bill.