Exclusive: Gillibrand Held Up Dunford Over Military Sexual Assault Documents

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has lifted her anonymous hold on Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.’s nomination to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, lining up his confirmation before the Senate departs for the August recess.

The New York Democrat told CQ she had requested documents pertaining to military sexual assaults at the largest military base for each service, as well as four training facilities, and received assurances from Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter Wednesday morning that the Pentagon will share that information.

Gillibrand, who has made the issue of military sexual assaults a key focal point, plans to use the information to issue a follow-on to a report she released last year. She will support Dunford's confirmation.

Gillibrand said she and Armed Services Chairman John McCain “worked very hard with Secretary Ash Carter to come to a resolution” on the document dispute. Carter, she added, committed to providing the documents in redacted form so she can review and publish them and also pledged his support to the ongoing efforts to end sexual assault within the military’s ranks.

“I’m very grateful for Secretary Carter’s leadership and his determination to root out sexual violence,” said Gillibrand, who has publicly argued with military leaders and defense officials over her efforts to take the decision for prosecuting sexual assault and other major crimes out of the chain of command.

Gillibrand’s 2014 report involved a review of 107 case files, which shed further light on the “true scope of sexual violence in military communities, including two large but overlooked segments of the military population — military spouses, and civilian women living near military bases,” according to that report.

Those documents, she said in her report, suggests that spouses and other civilians are particularly vulnerable. The military justice system, she wrote, “continues to struggle to provide justice.”

The updated report will also include information on training bases.

“This is an issue that we continue to fail at and we need more information to understand the whole depth and expanse of the problem,” she said Wednesday. “Reviewing documents and actually understanding what happens in these cases is an excellent first step to understanding how to solve the problem.” 

Gillibrand added that she supports Dunford’s nomination, which is expected to win easy Senate approval now that the hold has been lifted.

“I think he’s a great nominee,” she said.

McCain said the issue was resolved just prior to a hearing with Carter this morning.

“We’re all right. We just got it taken care of,” the Arizona Republican told CQ.

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