Senator meets with Guard to talk sexual assault

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill met with officials with the Missouri National Guard on Wednesday to discuss the issues of sexual assault, suicide and behavioral health of military members.

In a roundtable discussion at the Ike Skelton Training Center, McCaskill heard about procedures and programs used in the National Guard to deal with suicide prevention, sexual assault and overall behavioral health of soldiers and their families.

McCaskill said she wants to ensure the military has the needed tools to address the problems.

“I am very optimistic that there will be major changes,” McCaskill said. “Obviously, sexual assault is a problem in the military.”

McCaskill has introduced legislation to make reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice to prohibit commanders from vacating or nullifying a jury verdict and require written justification from a commander for any decision to commute or lessen a sentence after a guilty verdict in court martials.

“If there is a bad actor in our military ... they need to be found, they need to be prosecuted, and they need to be put in prison,” McCaskill said. “We’ve got to create an environment of safety and protection for these victims, that they understand that by coming forward they’re not risking their career and, secondly, that the military will take this problem seriously.”

She said she hopes the legislation will be taken under consideration in the fall as part of the reauthorization of the National Defense Authorization Act.

McCaskill said what she heard from Maj. Gen. Steve Danner and others Wednesday is that the National Guard is doing their health and

welfare programs “on an ad hoc basis because they don’t have the permanent resources to fill these positions.”

Danner said the National Guard has had to struggle with how to institute unfunded mandates from the federal level. McCaskill requested a list of any new responsibilities taken on in the past year and required by the National Defense Authorization Act that came without any additional resources.

“It’s just words on paper if the resources aren’t there to execute the programs that we’ve mandated,” McCaskill said. “I’m capable of raising a ruckus.”

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