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Vote bars Pentagon from providing enlistment waivers to rapists

Jul. 23, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The House voted Tuesday to prevent anyone convicted of a sex crime from enlisting in the military, this time by using the power of the purse.

The Defense Department already moved in March to prohibit anyone convicted of rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault or incest from entering the military, but Marine Corps veteran Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., convinced the House to go one step further during debate on the $512.4 billion defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2014. Kline’s amendment, passed by voice vote, prohibits any military funds from being spent to waive the restrictions to allow any exceptions to the policy.

House and Senate versions of separate 2014 defense authorization bill, which includes policy matters, contain provisions that would put current Pentagon policy barring enlistment of anyone convicted of sexual crimes into law. Whether any waivers would be possible depends on the legislative language that is signed into law.

“This is a serious issue,” said Kline, whose wife, Vicky, is a retired Army nurse and whose son served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The number of sexual assault victims in the military is unacceptable and I remain committed to preventing potential predators from joining our ranks.”

Before passage of Kline’s amendment, the funding bill already included provisions aimed at improving sexual assault prevention programs. In the report accounting the bill, the House Appropriations Committee says it is “outraged by the pervasive problem of sexual assault in the Armed Forces. Sexual assault is not just an issue in the military; it is an epidemic.”

The committee called for a “culture change at every level of the military, from the most senior leadership to the most junior ranks,” to attack the problem.

While the Obama administration has been at odds with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on appropriations bills, a July 22 statement of administration policy on the defense funding bill says it “appreciates the support of the committee in working to eliminate the threat that sexual assault in the military presents to our service members and our national security.”

Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., a cosponsor of Kline’s amendment, called restricting funds to keep convicted rapists out of the military “another step forward in combating assault in the military.”

“It is time to change the military’s culture of inaction when addressing sexual assaults,” Paulsen said.

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