Today, Congresswoman Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29) issued the following statement regarding the Senate’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act and what this means for getting justice for Spc. Vanessa Guillen:
“I thank the Senate for passing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022, which, after 50 years, will provide much-needed reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The bill is now heading to President Biden’s desk and will finally become a vehicle for justice for all victims of sexual assault and harassment in the military while transforming the institution’s culture–it will ensure that what happened to Spc. Vanessa Guillen never happens again to another soldier.
I have said it repeatedly: we owe our soldiers all the protection they need so they can feel safe in the institution they have committed to while serving our country.
I thank the Guillen family for their tireless fight to get justice for Vanessa, Congresswoman Jackie Speier for her leadership and for fighting for Vanessa and all victims of sexual harassment in our country, and all my colleagues in Congress who, from the beginning, joined this fight, united to find justice for her. We are one step closer to justice and protection for our soldiers.”
SUMMARY OF RELEVANT PROVISIONS IN THE UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE (UCMJ) REFORMS INCLUDED IN THE NDAA PASSED BY THE SENATE
Special Trial Counsel
- Creates an Office of the Special Trial Counsel within each Service and ensuring their independence by requiring they directly report to the Service Secretary. The provision also defines the role and responsibilities of these prosecutors and including their required experience.
- Criminalizes sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All claims of sexual harassment will be required to be investigated by an independent investigator outside the chain of command.
- Establishes judge-alone sentencing and sentencing parameters to increase fairness across the system.
- Increases the notification for Survivors of Sexual Assault by directing the Services to notify survivors of sexual assault about the outcomes of any administrative action taken against their perpetrator.
Sexual Assault Response and Prevention
- Requires a study on including a military occupational specialty for Sexual Assault Response Coordinators.
- Authorizes Special Victim Counsel to hire additional administrative support personnel.
- Allows the DoD Safe Helpline to intake restricted and unrestricted reports for eligible sexual assault victims.
- Requires a briefing on implementation of certain recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military.
- Requires the Department of Defense to track allegations of retaliation by victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment and related persons.
Reform and Improvement of Military Criminal Investigative Organizations
- Requires the military services to reform their criminal investigative organizations consistent with the guidance provided and submit a report through the Secretary of
- Defense not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act.
- Requires the secretaries of each service to provide detailed demographic information including sex, ethnicity, and rank on both the principal and victim of an offense under the UCMJ. The report will include investigations, nonjudicial punishment, administrative action, and all levels of courts-martial.