April 28, 2022

Senator Hirono Introduces Legislation to Remove Sexual Harassment from the Military Chain of Command

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Sexual Harassment Independent Investigations and Prosecutions (SHIIP) Act to remove sexual harassment from the military chain of command. The bill contains key provisions of the I am Vanessa Guillen Act not included in the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Companion legislation was introduced in the House last week by Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) on the two-year anniversary of the murder of Army SPC Vanessa Guillén.

“Our servicemembers have the right to an environment free of sexual harassment. But for far too long, the military’s response to this crime has failed survivors,” Senator Hirono said. “Just as we did with sexual assault in this year’s NDAA, the SHIIP Act shifts prosecutorial decisions for sexual harassment outside the chain of command and requires reports of sexual harassment to be investigated outside the immediate chain of command. This important legislation will help provide survivors the support they deserve while holding those responsible accountable and restoring faith in the military justice system. It is an important step forward in our work to end harassment and assault in the military.”

“Sexual harassment in the military remains a serious problem and one that Congress has failed to address for too long,” said Senator Feinstein. “This bill aims to help keep our service members safe and ensure perpetrators are held accountable, and would advance the pursuit of justice for victims of sexual harassment.  More work remains to be done and I will continue working with my colleagues in the Senate to support and protect the men and women of our armed forces.”

“The servicemembers who selflessly defend our nation deserve a military justice system that is responsive to their concerns and acts independently to decide cases fairly and equitably,” said Senator Booker. “For far too long, this system has failed to adequately address cases of military sexual harassment and assault. I am proud to support this vital, bicameral legislation that will enact meaningful and long-overdue reforms to better protect and serve victims of military sexual trauma.”

“Sexual harassment in the military is a pervasive problem—time and again, veterans, survivors and legal experts have testified that investigations of sexual harassment and prosecution of these crimes should be taken outside the chain of command. The SHIIP Act addresses this problem by ensuring that allegations of sexual harassment are investigated and prosecuted by independent, trained experts free from command influence, further professionalizing our military justice system,” said Senator Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee.

The SHIIP Act builds on the language included in the FY22 NDAA to move prosecutorial decisions for cases of military sexual assault out of the chain of command. Specifically, the bill would:

  • move prosecutorial decisions for sexual harassment from commanders to the new special trial counsel, created by the FY22 NDAA, so that independent military attorneys decide which sex-related offenses go to court-martial, and
  • require that the new, independent sexual harassment investigators created by the FY22 NDAA are outside of the chain of command of the victim and the subject and are trained in investigating sexual harassment.

The SHIIP Act is supported by the Guillén family and the following organizations: Protect Our Defenders, Service Women's Action Network, Modern Military Association of America, Never Alone Advocacy, and Red, White and Bruised.

Senator Hirono has long worked to end sexual harassment and assault in the military. Since 2013, she has championed the Military Justice Improvement Act to establish an impartial, fair, and accountable military justice system to address sexual assault. In 2020, she introduced the I am Vanessa Guillen Act in the Senate to remove decisions about prosecuting cases of sexual harassment and assault from the chain of command.  

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