House NDAA proposal would reform UCMJ to address sexual assaults in the military

The House Armed Services Committee will consider a $716 billion defense bill, including changes to how the military prosecutes sexual crimes.

The House Armed Services Committee will consider a $716 billion fiscal year 2022 defense bill that includes updates to the Uniform Code of Military Justice to address sexual assaults in the military and reallocates money meant for the Afghan Security Forces Fund.

Aides for the committee’s Democratic majority previewed the “chairman’s mark” of the FY 2022 bill, led by Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), to reporters on Friday. The bill will be released Monday.

The $716 billion included in DoD’s base budget is in line with the Biden administration’s request. Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the bill adds $35 billion to DoD’s base budget on top of the administration’s request.

The House committee’s mark reforms the Uniform Code of Military Justice to address sexual assaults in the military, including by creating independent special victim prosecutors in each of the military services with the power to convene court martials to prosecute allegations of sexual crimes.

The mark incorporates many of the recommendations advanced by DoD’s Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Sexual Assault in the Military, according to aides.

“The main timeframe is two years from date of enactment unless otherwise specified, but I believe almost everything is that two year [time frame],” an aide said regarding the timeline for making updates to the UCMJ.

Unlike the Senate bill, Smith’s bill does not take all nonmilitary crimes prosecutions out of the chain of command.

“The Senate did two different things in their bill, they pressed the easy button and hit on two things that are not necessarily alike — they took all the felonies out, and then they took all the sexual assault out, and they did them in two separate ways,” a House aide argued. “This is a much more coherent idea.”

Meanwhile, following the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, the mark also reallocates most of the $3.3 billion previously earmarked for the Afghan security forces “to a bunch of different places,” including facilities support, according to an aide. The bill keeps $350 million in the Afghan Security Forces Fund for the “contract close out.”

“Obviously facilities support is something that doesn’t get funded well every year and we feel like this was the right place to put some of that money,” the aide said.

A flurry of action is expected at Wednesday’s markup of the bill, where committee members will have the chance to offer amendments and vote on each subcommittee mark, as well as the chairman’s mark.

Aides say members of the committee’s supply chain task force in particular are working to bring some amendments to the mark-up next week. The task force released a final report earlier this summer recommending six major actions DoD should take to shore up its supply chains for critical items like rare earth elements and microelectronics.

The chairman’s mark also supports DoD’s request for $10.4 billion for cybersecurity, including $605 million specifically for U.S. Cyber Command, an aide confirmed.

The aide highlighted a section in the mark that would create a new program office within Joint Force Headquarters Department of Defense Information Networks “to centralize management of cyber threat information products” as “one of the more impactful” cyber provisions in the bill.

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