WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is stepping up his opposition to legislation that seeks to stanch the growing number of sexual assaults in the armed forces by overhauling the military justice system.
Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, has released two letters from senior Defense Department officials that support keeping commanders involved in deciding whether to prosecute sexual assault cases.
Legislation introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial. That judgment would rest instead with seasoned trial lawyers — civilians who have prosecutorial experience.
But Levin says that approach would take away one of the “strongest weapons” commanders have to change the culture in their units and stem sexual assaults.