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Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on sexual assaults in the military took a drastic turn Tuesday when Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) asked military leaders about her proposed legislation that would take sexual assault reporting out of the chain of command.

Military leaders completely rejected any measures that would insert non-uniformed personnel into assault investigations.

“It is imperative that the chain of command is fully engaged and part of the solution. … Removing commanders, making commanders less responsible, less accountable, will not work,” General Ray Ordierno, the Army’s Chief of Staff, responded.

“Not all commanders are objective,” Gillibrand said.  “Not every single commander necessarily wants women on the force, not every commander believes what a sexual assault is, not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape because they merge all of these crimes together.”

“You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you,” she added.

Following numerous high-profile sexual assault scandals, a DOD report revealing 3,000 reported cases of sexual assault in the past year alone, and a Pentagon survey’s estimate of a total of 26,000 troops who experienced “unwanted sexual assault” in 2012, Armed Services Committee chairman Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) moved the hearing up from its initial June 11 date. It was the first full committee hearing on military sexual assault in a decade.

Levin said that the number of sexual assaults is “of such scope and magnitude that it has become a stain on our military.”

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) used the hearing to push a very different agenda. He attributed rape in the military to a “hormone level created by nature” and suggested the Pentagon not allow women in combat roles.

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

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