WASHINGTON — Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., joined two Senate colleagues Thursday in unveiling new proposals aimed at combating sexual assault in the military.
Fischer appeared at a Capitol Hill press conference with Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., to tout their proposal.
Sexual assault in the military is expected to be one of many hot topics when the Senate considers annual defense authorization legislation next week.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has been pushing her own proposal to remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.
Fischer's amendment would not go that far. Fischer made a point of saying that her proposal would not “radically remake the entire military justice system.”
“I think that would carry significant risk,” she said of such a dramatic overhaul. “We're seeing improvements now through the different branches, and I believe this bill that passes with our amendment will make those changes even better.”
Fischer, McCaskill and Ayotte are members of the Armed Services Committee.
Among the changes included in the amendment: modifying military rules of evidence to prevent defendants from using good military character unless it directly relates to an element of the crime.
The amendment also would allow victims greater input into prosecutions. And it would give victims a confidential process to challenge a subsequent discharge, allowing them to raise the issue of retaliation.
In addition, the proposal clarifies that all changes apply to the military service academies.
“All along I've said that while we need to deal with sexual offenders, we cannot lose sight of the victims,” Fischer said. “That's where our focus needs to be. And this amendment keeps that very important focus in place.”