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Defense Authorization Passes House Committee

On June 5, the House Armed Services Committee approved, 59-2, the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1960). The Military Personnel Subcommittee approved its portion of the legislation on May 21 (see The Source, 5/24/13).

According to a committee summary, the bill would authorize $526.6 billion in FY2014 for the Department of Defense (DoD) discretionary base budget, $17.8 billion for the Department of Energy base budget, and $85.8 billion for overseas contingency operations.

The measure contains several provisions regarding sexual assault in the military. Conversations between service members, Members of Congress, or inspectors general about incidents of rape and/or sexual assault would be considered protected communications under the bill’s provisions.

Commanders would be stripped of their authority to dismiss court martial findings or reduce guilty findings to lesser offenses. The secretary of Defense, along with an independent panel, would be required to assess the current role and authorities of commanders with regard to “the administration of justice and the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

The legislation would establish minimum sentencing guidelines for sexual assault offenses. Victims of sexual assault would be permitted to apply for a permanent change of station or unit transfer; commanders would be authorized, through the secretary of Defense, to remove or reassign service members who are alleged to have committed sexual assaults.

With regard to women’s service in the military, the bill would establish a “gender-neutral occupational standard” to be used by each branch of the military to develop the standards for all military careers. The secretary also would be required to conduct a comprehensive study on ways to improve body armor for female service members.

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