Today, President Biden signed an Executive Order to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is key to advancing the historic, bipartisan military justice reform he signed into law last month through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
This Executive Order strengthens the military justice system’s response to gender-based violence, and delivers on key recommendations from the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military (IRC) that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin launched in March 2021.
This year’s NDAA also included key components of the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act, which honors the memory of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillén, whose experience with severe sexual harassment was followed by her brutal murder, drawing national attention to the scourge of sexual violence in the military. The Guillén family’s leadership and determination in advocating for change underscored the need for military justice reform, including how the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) addresses sexual harassment. The Executive Order that the President signed today establishes sexual harassment as a specific offense under the UCMJ. It also strengthens the military justice response in prosecuting cases of domestic violence, and fully implements changes to the military justice code to criminalize the wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images.
As this Executive Order goes into effect today, we reaffirm our commitment to advancing the military justice reform that the President signed into law as part of the NDAA, which includes the historic shift of legal decisions from commanders to independent, specialized prosecutors in cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other serious crimes. And we honor the courage and leadership of the many survivors and advocates who long fought for these critical changes.
President Biden has long been committed to ending domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of gender-based violence, first as a United States Senator, then as Vice President, and now as President and Commander-in-Chief. These efforts have become even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, as risk for gender-based violence has increased in the United States and around the world. The important steps we have taken today build on the ongoing efforts of the Biden-Harris Administration to address gender-based violence, wherever it occurs, including by directing $1 billion in supplemental funding through the American Rescue Plan for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and services, andsigning into law the Amendments to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), resulting in an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars of non-taxpayer funding for lifesaving services to crime victims around the country. Today’s Executive Order also reinforces the commitments of the Biden-Harris Administration to supporting survivors by releasing the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality in the United States, which identifies gender-based violence prevention and response as a core strategic priority for President Biden. The strategy also names military justice reform as an essential component of elevating gender equality in security processes.
Today marks another turning point for survivors of gender-based violence in the military. Moving forward, the Administration will continue to advance prevention, promote safe and respectful military climates, and strengthen care and support for survivors.