Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst will bring a much needed perspective to the debate in Congress on military sexual assault. As a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves, she will bring a voice to the table that few in the halls of the U.S. Senate or House can match.
Ernst has detailed the guiding principles she will use when making her case for reform and deciding her vote on specific legislation. She has stated that legislation must ensure that sexual crimes in the military are both independently investigated and prosecuted.
The decision on whether to prosecute would need to be made by an independent, experienced prosecutor who is not in the chain of command for the accused or accuser. If a decision is made by the independent prosecutor to proceed to trial, then the Service Secretary’s office will assign an independent court martial administrator to convene the court martial.
At this point, can Iowa voters ask for more than knowing the perspective and philosophy that Joni Ernst will use to make decisions?
No federal candidate can be expected to make a credible decision on supporting or opposing specific legislation when he/she is not currently serving in Congress and has not had an opportunity to read it nor any added amendments. The key for Iowa voters is knowing an issue that is important to them will be a priority to her and that she is committed to getting results.
The fact that Ernst has raised this issue and made clear that, should she be elected, she will work with Republicans and Democrats to address this issue can not be overlooked. She knows she will not be leading a one person brigade against a problem that, unfortunately, is not new. She will be joining a bi-partisan effort that Senators Kelly Ayotte, Deb Fischer, Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand have been championing.
These Senators have been working for some time on various pieces of legislation to address sexual assaults, boost victims’ rights and hold offenders accountable. They would welcome the valuable experience and expertise that Ernst offers to meaningfully address this issue and bring about long overdue reform.
For decades, the president and congress have been assured by the Pentagon that the handling of sexual assault in the military would become a priority. The fact that those promises have never materialized into meaningful reform means Congress must take seriously its oversight role and work with military leaders to overcome these terrible crimes.
With Joni Ernst in the U.S. Senate, Iowa voters will add a much needed perspective and voice for forcing the Pentagon to keep its promise on appropriately prosecuting sexual assaults and protecting the men and women who are protecting us.