Wyden, Colleagues Say Pentagon Timetable for Implementing Sexual Assault Reforms ‘Vague, Lax’

The senators write, “We will not accept an additional 6 to 9 years of waiting for these necessary changes to be implemented”

Washington, D.C. —U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today joined seven Senate colleagues to express disappointment with the Pentagon’s proposed timeline—of up to nine years—to implement the findings of the Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Sexual Assault to combat sexual assault and harassment in the military. 

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the senators request a briefing outlining the Department of Defense’s methods of execution to achieve needed reforms.

“We write to express our disappointment and concern with the vague approach and lax timeline the Department of Defense has laid out in its Sept 22, 2021 memo ‘Commencing DoD Actions and Implementation to Address Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Military,’” Wyden and colleagues wrote. “This approach does not rise to the challenge of addressing the crippling and endemic sexual assault crisis afflicting our nation’s military.”

“For nearly a decade, the United States Senate has voiced its displeasure with and intent to reform the military’s handling of sexual misconduct among the armed forces,” the senators wrote. “We will not accept an additional 6 to 9 years of waiting for these necessary changes to be implemented. The majority of Congress understands that this is not a problem our service members can wait years for us to solve; 66 Senators and 220 Representatives have agreed to sponsor the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act of 2021, legislation that would mandate implementation of the below reforms within six months of passage.”

In the letter, the senators request a briefing no later than Nov. 30, 2021 outlining the Department of Defense’s methods of execution to achieve the following improvements in no later than six months:

1.          Move the decision to prosecute sexual assault and other serious crimes to an independent, trained, professional military prosecutor.

2.          Ensure the Department of Defense develops tactics, techniques, and procedures to support criminal investigators and military prosecutors’ sexual assault and domestic violence investigations.

3.          Survey and improve the physical security of military installations to increase safety in lodging and living spaces for service members.

4.          Increase and improve training and education on military sexual assault throughout our armed services.

The letter was led by U. S. Senators Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. Along with Wyden, the letter is signed by U. S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

The entire letter is here.

A web version of this release is here.