(CNN) — Chiefs of every military branch told a Senate committee Tuesday they opposed letting prosecutors, rather than commanders, handle sexual assault investigations, as one senator has introduced legislation aimed at doing just that.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said there may be public confusion about the military’s reporting process. Referring to media reports that there is only one way to report sexual assault, the Michigan Democrat asked each of the military heads at a hearing if there currently are multiple options in addition to notifying a unit commander. They replied yes.
They also told the committee that instances of commanders ignoring their judge advocate generals’ advice in sexual assault cases are extremely rare.
Sen. James Inhofe, the top Republican member of the Armed Services Committee, earlier called sexual assault in the military “an enemy to morale and readiness” and urged his colleagues to tread carefully in tackling the issue.
Inhofe said he is opposed to any legislation “removing commanders from their indispensable roles” in the military justice system and noted that military and civilian courts are different animals because members of the military do not enjoy the same rights as civilians.
“There’s a risk of unintended consequences if we act with haste without thorough and thoughtful review,” the Oklahoma lawmaker said.
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