June 23, 2021 11:56 AM | With information from .
15 minutes. Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin announced Tuesday that he will support changes in the military judicial system so that crimes of sexual abuse leave the chain of command and are evaluated by independent military lawyers.
In a statement, Austin announced that in the next few days he will present to President Joe Biden a series of recommendations in this regard. The objective: “Finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the Armed Forces“.
Austin’s remarks represent a sea change from the traditional Pentagon stance. For decades, the institution has resisted the intervention of independent lawyers. In his view, he believes that commanders are the best equipped to decide whether to bring charges against allegations of sexual harassment and abuse.
Austin, who is testifying before the House Armed Forces committee on Wednesday, said he wants to work with Congress to bring about those changes in the military justice system.
However, did not express his point of view on any of the legislative bills that were presented recently to address that problem.
Projects under study
One of those initiatives, promoted by Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, goes beyond what Austin said. Seeks that all crimes, including murder and sexual abuse, are handled by military attorneys independent of the Pentagon, rather than members of the chain of command.
In addition, in the House of Representatives, Democrat Jackie Speier and Republican Mike Turner presented another bill similar to Gillibrand’s. It is named after the Hispanic soldier Vanessa Guillén, murdered while working at the Fort Hood (Texas) base.
That 20-year-old soldier disappeared in April 2020 after confessing to her family that one of her sergeants sexually harassed her.
His mutilated remains were found near the León River. They were buried by their alleged murderer, his partner at the base Aaron David Robinson, who committed suicide when the police came to question him.
The case of Guillén, of Mexican descent, attracted the national attention of the United States (US). In addition, he exposed the need for changes in the way in which the Armed Forces investigate cases of sexual abuse and harassment.
On my very first full day in office, and at @POTUS ‘direction, I ordered a comprehensive review of the sexual harassment prevention efforts within the US military. Just as I said then, this is a leadership issue, and we will lead. Our people depend upon it.
– Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) June 22, 2021