A U.S. Senate panel on Tuesday approved a controversial plan to improve the military’s handling of sexual assault cases, backing draft legislation that would let prosecutors, rather than a victim’s commander, decide if a sex offense should go to trial, reports Reuters. The proposal was one of a dozen sexual assault-related measures endorsed by the personnel panel of the Senate Armed Services Committee for inclusion in the annual legislation that sets policy for the U.S. military.
Approval of the proposal set the stage for a battle over the issue as the legislation makes its way through the full Armed Services Committee and then the entire Senate in the coming weeks. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has opposed taking sexual assault prosecution decisions out of the chain of command. So have the military service chiefs, who say commanders should be held more accountable, not less, and removing responsibility from the chain of command would undermine order and discipline.