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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Lawmakers look to change the way the military investigates sexual assaults

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday introduced the "Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act."

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are trying to change the way the military conducts sexual assault investigations and prosecutions.

Until now, these cases have always been handled by the defendant's own chain of command leaders. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the "Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act."

The measure would strip the commanders of that responsibility. Instead, independent, trained, professional military prosecutors would take over.

"The most recent report from the Department of Defense estimated that almost 21,000 service members were sexually assaulted in 2018," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). "That number tells us it makes them more likely to be sexually assaulted by a fellow service member than to be shot by the enemy at war."

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is among the bill's co-sponsors. "Senator Gillibrand’s bill takes significant steps to change how the military prosecutes serious crimes such as rape and provides new tools to help stem the tide of sexual assault within the ranks. While this bill is not a cure-all solution, we must take bold steps to establish justice and accountability for victims of sexual assault," he said in a statement.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is conducting his own 90-day review of a similar recommendation from a Pentagon advisory board.