“Sexual assault is a stain on the honor of millions of military men and women, a threat to the discipline and the cohesion of our force, and we will not allow this to stand,” Hagel said.
The White House said the president remains open to all ideas for reform but that he supports the thrust of the reforms passed by the Senate in Thursday and wants to give them time to work.
Gillibrand said she spoke with Obama about the matter Thursday but that she remains committed to earning enough support to pass her legislation, which could come up for a vote as early as next month.
“I do not want to wait another year to enact the one reform survivors have asked for in removing commanders with no legal training and conflicts of interest from the decision of whether or not to prosecute a rape or sexual assault,” she said in a statement. “We have the best fighting force in the world and they deserve a first class justice system. Nowhere in America do we allow a boss to decide if an employee was sexually assaulted or not, except the United States military.”
Presidential aides said the White House will be working with the Pentagon to develop a set of benchmarks so that the military’s review will be rigorous enough to bring about change. They said the review will include all the efforts underway to address the problem, including training and prevention programs and the way the justice system deters the problem and supports victims.
The Pentagon has ordered a host of reviews and studies across the department and military services. In March, Hagel ordered a review of the military’s justice system in connection with sexual assaults. And a month later he laid out a department-wide sexual assault plan to better coordinate the initiatives being launched across the services.