Fighting for Florida

Sexual Assaults in the Military

For months, I’ve closely studied the issue of how to address and stop sexual assaults in the military. My office and I have held dozens of formal meetings and calls with active duty service women and men, victims and military leaders, among others. When I’ve crossed paths with service women and men at home in Florida, at airports or during my official travels abroad, I’ve sought their opinions on this matter. I especially appreciate the time Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Claire McCaskill, Kelly Ayotte and Deb Fischer have spent with me discussing this issue and walking me through the impact their proposals would have.

Sexual assaults in any setting are unacceptable. But sexual assaults in our military bring the additional consequences of endangering our troops, diminishing morale, undermining our national defense, and tarnishing the uniform that so many who have come before have worn with honor.

On this issue, my goal has been to find the best way to prevent sexual assaults in our armed forces, punish those who commit these crimes, and ensure that the discipline and order our military’s chain of command instills is safeguarded – for it is the foundation of the greatest military in the history of the world.

At this time, I believe we need to allow the multiple reforms enacted in the last two National Defense Authorization Acts to be  fully implemented and studied. I also support the proposal by Senators McCaskill, Ayotte and Fischer to build on these earlier reforms and supported their legislation today.  Ultimately, I did not support Sen. Gillibrand’s legislation today because I believe we should allow these other reforms to take root before we significantly alter the chain of command structure and military justice system that governs the way our armed forces operate.

In considering this issue, I thought of all the men and women who serve in harm’s way and in military installations throughout Florida. I thought about the service men and women I’ve met during my official travels abroad. I thought about the young men and women I’ve been privileged to nominate to our service academies and who now attend those prestigious institutions.  I thought about all their parents, who share the universal concern of parents everywhere about their kids’ safety – but experience it on a whole other level given the nature of their sacrifices.

Nothing is more important to me than protecting them and their God-given dignity, and ensuring that our military remains not only an enduring symbol of our strength but also of our national character.

I believe the reforms included in the recent NDAA and those that passed today can effectively punish and deter sexual assault crimes within our military. If these reforms fail to do this, I believe we should revisit this issue.