National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 Wrap-Up
On Wednesday, after months of negotiations and procedural back-and-forth, President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.
The final law included an entire subsection on improving sexual assault prevention and response in the Armed Forces, in addition to a series of related measures to improve the military justice system’s handling of sexual assault cases.
Some of the highlights include:
- Prohibition of enlistment waivers for individuals with felony rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, or related offenses;
- Better training for new commanders to create command environments that do not tolerate sexual assault, and to educate the commanders of the resources available for survivors and the disciplinary procedures for rapists;
- Improved reporting on sexual assault prevention, training, investigation, and prosecution throughout the Armed Forces, including:
- Meeting of case processing goals by investigators
- Analysis of procedural stonewalling and professional retribution against survivors
- Increased tracking of instances of sexual harassment throughout the Armed Forces;
- Active duty retention of survivors until the completion of a line of duty determination to prevent bureaucratic roadblocks to investigation, prosecution, and care;
- Mandatory climate surveys for every commander in the Armed Forces to determine the prevalence of sexual assault in the unit and the standards of prevention and prosecution fostered by the commander;
- Mandatory administrative separation or dismissal for any member of the Armed Services convicted of sexual assaulted or related crimes;
- Expanded efforts to publicize resources for survivors to report and respond to sexual assault;
- Immediate correction of military records for survivors who face retaliatory personnel action for reporting their assault;
- Improved standards for record keeping in cases of sexual assault, including record retention, documentation of evidence, and better integration of the records into DoD databases;
- The establishment of comprehensive special victims units, made up of specifically trained personnel, to investigate and prosecute instances of sexual assault. These units will include investigators, judge advocates, victim witness assistance personnel, and administrative paralegal support all specially equipped to handle cases of rape and sexual assault. The NDAA also establishes regular reporting to measure the efficacy of these special victims units. Each branch has 270 days from the NDAA’s passage to develop a one-year plan to implement and establish these units;
- Enhanced training of all new service members (in addition to commanders at all levels) at the time of enlistment;
- Improved record keeping for cases of military sexual assault, including reporting on reasons for dismissing cases and histories of accused service members;
- Measures to prevent professional retaliation against survivors by requiring special processing for investigations and dismissal of service members who have reported sexual assault;
- The establishment of two committees tasked with measuring, analyzing, and recommending improvements for the military response systems and judicial proceedings of sexual assault in the Armed Forces.
Keep an eye out for more expanded analysis of the NDAA and actions to make sure that Congress and the military are held accountable for honestly and comprehensively carrying out the new measures.