Military Sexual Assaults Become
Focus of Budget Talks in Congress
The U.S. military’s epidemic of sexual assault has dominated Congress’ deliberations on the annual
defense authorization bill this year, with lawmakers on
both sides of the aisle pushing dozens of legislative
solutions aimed at solving this problem.
Anticipated cuts to the Pentagon budget, struggling
acquisition programs with growing price tags, a meager
increase in military pay and proposed increases to Tricare
heath care fees would, under normal circumstances, take
center stage as the House and Senate Armed Services
Committees drafted their policy bills this spring.
Of course, they still got some attention. But the vast
majority of the focus was directed at ending sexual
assaults within the military’s ranks, thanks to a Pentagon
report released in May that estimated cases of unwanted
sexual contact had risen a staggering 37 percent — from
19,000 to 26,000 — between 2010 and 2012.
The release of the report coincided with highly publicized sexual assault scandals within the military, some
involving the very people tasked with preventing this
crime, changing the military’s culture and helping victims.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
The problem is not a new one. Pentagon officials and
lawmakers alike have been working for years to end sexual assaults within the military’s ranks, improve the
treatment of victims and boost reporting rates.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E.
Dempsey testifies on sexual assault in the military before
the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill
June 4. Dempsey was joined at the hearing by the other
Joint Chiefs and the commandant of the Coast Guard.
Indeed, lawmakers last year
worked with Pentagon leaders on
a host of reforms, including moving the decision for prosecuting
sexual assaults up to the level of a
colonel in the hopes of eliminating
bias in the way these cases are
For their part, service officials
have stressed that they are taking
this issue seriously by launching
new training and prevention pro-
grams and boosting accountability
within their own forces. The mili-
tary’s goal, many officials have
said, is to ultimately eradicate sex-