Panel: Keep Convening Authority with Commanders

The congressionally-mandated Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes panel has recommended military commanders maintain their authority to refer sexual assaults to courts-martial. The decision, first recommended by the panel’s Role of the Commander subcommittee, contradicts legislation being pushed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), which would remove commander’s power to make decisions about cases involving sexual assault, giving that authority instead to an independent prosecutor. “Based on all information considered to this point, a strong majority of the subcommittee members agree the evidence does not support a conclusion that removing the authority to convene courts-martial from senior commanders will reduce the incidence of sexual assault or increase reporting of sexual assaults in the armed forces,” said subcommittee chair Judge Barbara Jones in a letter released Jan. 30. Panel members include Elizabeth Holtzman, retired Army Gen. Carter Ham, retired Navy Vice Adm. James Houck, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Altenburg, University of California Professor Elizabeth Hillman (the lone dissenter), South Texas University professor Geoffrey Corn, Air Force Col. Lisa Turner, and Joye Frost. (DOD report)