Sen. Patty Murray’s proposal requiring the Armed Forces to train advocates to help sex assault victims moved forward this week as an amendment to Congress’ primary defense bill, setting it up for adoption later this year.
The proposal expands an Air Force program that connects sex assault victims with special prosecutors to guide them through the military justice process.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey this week wrote in a letter to Murray that the Air Force special victims counsel has helped airmen come forward to report crimes and identify attackers.
“I support providing victims of sexual assault this important resource,” Dempsey wrote.
Murray’s sex assault proposal was one of several military policy changes that Washington state lawmakers carried in a busy week of hearings in the House and Senate on different versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that lays out the Pentagon’s budget and priorities.
The others included:
• Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, could not persuade a majority of his colleagues in the House to adopt an amendment that would have compelled the Obama administration to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He’s the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. He called Guantanamo “an international eyesore that undermines our national security objectives, damages our credibility with regard to human rights and international law, and is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars.”
• Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, sponsored a successful amendment that broadens criteria active-duty service members can use to obtain loans with capped interest rates.
• All six of the Evergreen State’s Democratic congressmen voted for a successful amendment that would speed the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by this year instead of the Obama administration’s target date of 2014.
The full House passed its version of the defense authorization act Friday. The Senate’s version is on its way to a full Senate vote. Later this year, the House and Senate will meet to work out differences before forwarding a bill to the president.
Smith called the budgeting approach in the House bill “wishful thinking” because it works only if Congress repeals the forced spending cuts in the Budget Control Act of 2011, known as sequestration. Those cuts amount to about $50 billion in the 2014 defense budget.
Congress failed to repeal the cuts this year, and the sequester is taking effect with furloughs and reduced training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“It looks to me like sequester is going to happen,” Smith said.