Lawmaker pushes amendments on sexual harassment in the military for annual defense bill
Posted July 21, 2020 11:08 a.m. EDT
CNN — Rep. Jackie Speier is pushing for several amendments to be included in the National Defense Authorizations Act to address sexual harassment in the military, in response to Spc. Vanessa Guillén's killing in Texas earlier this year.
"We are heartbroken and outraged by the horrific murder of SPC Vanessa Guillén at the hands of another military servicemember," Speier, the chairwoman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, says in a letter to her colleagues, "We are concerned about many aspects of this case, including the length of time it took for the military to find SPC Guillén. We are particularly troubled that SPC Guillén told her family that she had been harassed by another servicemember but was too afraid to file a sexual harassment report."
On Capitol Hill, Speier has offered two amendments to strengthen military policies on sexual harassment that Guillén's tragedy has highlighted the need for, she says.
The first requires the Government Accountability Office to study and report on the military's practices for investigating missing persons and compare them with the investigative services in the civilian world, evaluating whether it's using best practices.
The second requires the Department of Defense to establish a new, confidential reporting process for sexual harassment that would be integrated with the military's "Catch a Serial Offender" program.
Guillén, 20, was last seen in the parking lot of her barracks at Fort Hood in April, according to the US Army Criminal Investigation Command. Her remains were found last month, according to her family's attorney, Natalie Khawam. Spc. Aaron Robinson, a 20-year-old soldier suspected in the disappearance of Guillen, killed himself after police confronted him in Killeen, Texas, authorities said July 1. Texas Rangers arrested another suspect, a civilian, in connection with the case, according to the Criminal Investigation Command.
"Sexual harassment in the military is up; reporting is down. I think with Specialist Guillen's reluctance to report it, it underscores the fact that retaliation is what they fear," Speier said in an interview Monday with CNN, "a combination of retaliation and justice not being done."
Speier is scheduled to speak with Guillén's family this week as she pushes her amendments in the National Defense Authorization Act while it is being negotiated on Capitol Hill.
"I must say, for the first time in the NDAA this year there is growing recognition that it's not working," Speier says, speaking of the bipartisan support she believes she has for these amendments. "It's finally dawning on members of Congress that whatever we're doing isn't working."