Top White House aides met with members of Congress Thursday to discuss the growing number of sexual assaults in the military, as well as a legislative solution aimed at cracking down on the attacks.
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to Mr. Obama, and Tina Tchen, chief of staff for first lady Michelle Obama, joined 16 House and Senate members from both parties.
President Obama “believes that anyone who engages in sexual assault is dishonoring the uniform that they wear,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Thursday, “and that anyone who is a victim of sexual assault should know that [Mr. Obama] and the leadership that he has in place have their backs and is actively taking steps to address this significant problem.”
The White House aides and lawmakers discussed a number of proposals in Congress to change the military’s justice system on sexual assaults, ranging from stronger protections for accusers to eliminating provisions that allow commanders to override verdicts.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, and Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, have written a bill that would require the military to retain restricted reports of sexual assault for 50 years. Right now, service members have to request retention of those records.
A report released earlier this week said up to 26,000 military members were sexually assaulted last year, a jumped by more than one-third from 2010.
At a press conference last week, Mr. Obama called the findings outrageous and demanded the Pentagon take action.
“Bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this,” he said. “I have communicated this to the secretary of defense. We’re going to communicate this again to folks up and down the chain in areas of authority, and I expect consequences.”