Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Bill Nelson Questions Air Force on Sexual Assault Case Reversed

During the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Bill Nelson asked military officials if they have ever decided to not prosecute an accused enlisted man or officer because of an outstanding service record. Nelson didn't completely buy it. Nelson asked Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh about a sexual assault conviction that was reserved by Lt. Gen. Susan Helms. Ignoring her own legal advisers, Helms overturned the conviction of a captain. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has let Gen. Welch know her displeasure of the Air Force's handling of sexual assault cases.

At a widely watched committee hearing last month, Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, narrowed her eyes with disdain as Michael B. Donley, the secretary of the Air Force, expressed regret about recent assault cases. She then excoriated him and Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the chief of staff of the Air Force, when they suggested that they were making progress on the problem.

“I do not think you should pat yourself on the back,” Ms. Gillibrand admonished them. Sexual assault, she said, is “undermining the credibility of the greatest military force in the world.” She has since introduced legislation that would give military prosecutors rather than commanders the power to decide which sexual assault cases to try. Her goal is to increase the number of people who report sex crimes without fear of retaliation.

Pay no attention to the happy talk by generals at the Armed Services Committee hearings. There is still much work that needs to be done to make women safe in the military.

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