Dept. of Defense promises reforms to handling of military sexual assault cases

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Department of Defense is promising sweeping reforms to the way the United States military handles cases of sexual assault.

“We will see to it that every corner of the department implements the changes,” Deputy Defense Secretary Dr. Kathleen Hicks said Tuesday.

An Independent Review Commission found the military isn’t doing enough to address sexual assault and harassment cases or stop them from happening.

Lawmakers pressed military leaders on how they will respond going forward.

“I think we can all agree that these are crimes that have no place in the United States military,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said.

Testifying on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Hicks said the department is taking steps to improve prevention, reporting and support for victims.

“We will be trying to prioritize the order in which we’ll pursue these items and the resources required,” Hicks added.

Congress is debating taking the handling of sexual assault cases outside the chain of command – something the administration has publicly supported.

“We’ve heard from military leadership that they don’t support this kind of systemic reform,” Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., said.

Hicks answered, “I have significant concerns about our ability to drive this kind of change.”

“The President, the secretary and I are here and we’re here to put in that effort,” Hicks added.

Some lawmakers worry about unintended consequences.

“That we will inadvertently reduce the overall effectiveness of a commander,” Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas added.

The legislation to make this happen is currently still awaiting action in the House and the Senate.

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