Harry Reid ‘terribly disappointed’ with rise of military sexual assaults

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) says he's "terribly disappointed" with a reported rise in sexual assaults in the U.S. military and said that Congress should move forward with legislative proposals to curb the trend and possibly change how military commanders handle accusations of abuse.

Reid on Tuesday cited the arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the chief of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention branch. Krusinski was arrested by Arlington County police early Sunday and charged with sexual battery.

“I’m happy to look at means to change the laws, but it appears to me that we’re going to need to change the mindset of the military," Reid told reporters. "If we need changes in the law, I’m happy to look at them very closely, but right now I’m terribly disappointed that they’re not doing a better job within the military itself.”

Reid's comments came as several senators of both parties are proposing changes to how the military handles accusations of sexual assault.

A bill by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) set for release next week would remove decision-making power on sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.

A separate proposal by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) would provide military lawyers to sexual assault victims throughout any legal process; expand the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention team to better investigate cases; refer accusations of sexual assault to the general court martial level or a more senior military official if there is a conflict within the chain of command; and bar sexual conduct between military instructors and trainees during and within 30 days of the completion of training programs.

Reid said he has reviewed such proposals and called them "steps in the right direction."

"We need to change the mindset of the military and if there’s legislation that needs to be done – and I’m quite sure there probably is – we need to move to that as quickly as we can," he said.

The Senate leader's comments echoed remarks made Tuesday by President Obama, who said he has instructed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “to step up our game exponentially ” to prevent sex crimes in the military and hold offenders accountable.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.



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