Washington, D.C. - Rep. Kristi Noem today outlined a number of proposals to address sexual assault in our nation’s armed forces. She announced the proposals in light of a 35 percent increase in military sexual assaults since 2010 and is working to get the policy changes made as part of the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2013.
Specifically, Rep. Noem hopes to improve investigations of sexual assaults in order to ensure that victims receive justice. Additionally, Noem is working with the House Armed Services Committee to include provisions which would require the Secretary of Defense to establish selection and qualification criteria for officers in sexual assault prevention positions.
Provisions Noem is crafting would require the Defense Department to develop a basic training plan and materials in order to make prevention practices uniform across the Armed Forces.
“Our military men and women put themselves in harm’s way to defend our country’s freedom, but should be able to feel safe when surrounded by fellow soldiers,” said Rep. Noem. “This is a problem that isn’t getting any better and it needs to be addressed in a meaningful, comprehensive way.”
Noem is proposing changes in the following areas:
Improved Investigation of Sex-Related Offenses. Rep. Noem advocates a policy change that would direct the Secretary of Defense to standardize recommendations by military criminal investigative organizations as to whether a sex-related offense is founded or unfounded. This change would aim to give military commanders better information in the form of an expert opinion when proceeding with prosecuting sexual assault crimes.
Qualifications for Sexual Assault Prevention/Support Personnel. Rep. Noem believes the Secretary of Defense should be required to establish selection criteria for individuals in sexual assault prevention related positions. Currently, there are not any specific qualifications for these positions. Changes in this specific area are all the more important in light of recently publicized instances of military personnel in sexual assault prevention/support positions being accused of a sexual offenses themselves.
Basic Training Standards for Sexual Assault. Rep. Noem believes the Department of Defense should be directed to develop basic training plans and materials for sexual assault prevention. Currently the individual branches of the military do their own training plans for sexual assault, highlighting the need for consistency among all branches. Rep. Noem supports a basic bar for training across all branches.
As a member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, which has jurisdiction over these issues, Noem has made it a priority to speak up on behalf of those victimized by sexual assault while serving in the military. She has spent the last few months researching and working on these policy change proposals.
Earlier this year, Noem questioned U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III and U.S. Air Force Commander General Edward A. Rice, Jr. about sexual misconduct by basic training instructors at Lackland Air Force Base.
Rep. Noem continues to be an advocate for women, both civilian and military. As a Vice Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, Noem continues to advocate for women and families in a bipartisan manner. Noem recently returned from Afghanistan with a bipartisan group of women lawmakers to see how the withdrawal of American troops is proceeding and to show support for Afghan women and their push for increased rights and opportunities in their country.