Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is leading the effort in the Senate to move the authority to prosecute military sexual assault cases outside the chain of command, said Tuesday that commanders are "failing," and she expressed hope that President Obama will support her legislation.
"The facts show they can't do it, and this is exactly where they're failing," Gillibrand said on PostTV's new show, "On Background." "If there is 62 percent retaliation today of victims who are coming forward, they are failing in their mandate to provide good order and discipline and to set a command climate where a victim can come forward."
Gillibrand added: "The commanders today who have said zero tolerance for sexual assault for 25 years are unable to keep retaliation from happening, unable to make a command climate sufficient that a victim will come forward. That needs to change."
Gillibrand added that she remains hopeful that President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will support her bill. Thus far, the administration hadn't taken sides, and military leaders have balked at the change, emphasizing the need to retain their chain of command.
"I hope [Obama] does," she said. "I hope the president will find his way to support this proposal. I hope Secretary Hagel will show the leadership that's necessary to demand this kind of accountability and transparency."
Gillibrand's legislation currently has 44 co-sponsors but has encountered opposition from longtime senators -- led by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) -- who would like to address the issue in other ways that don't strip commanders of their authority.