TODAY   |  June 12, 2013

Military sexual assault legislation rejected

The future of the military justice system is uncertain this morning, as legislation aimed at stopping the growing number of sexual assaults in the armed forces was rejected by key members of Congress, on the grounds that the changes go too far. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>>> for the scandal that's a major black eye for the military.

>>> good morning. the legislation aimed at the growing number of sexual assaults in the armed forces is aimed at key members of congress that say the proposal goes too far. kelly o'donnell has the latest. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning natalie. this was always a controversial idea but got the support of 27 senato senators vocally lead by the women in the senate. they tell me this is a real set back. her proposal would have made a dramatic change taking the immediate commanders out of the process of deciding when serious crimes including sexual misconduct should go to trial. instead she argued outside military prosecutors should decide. a move aimed at reducing a victim's fear of retaliation but the democrat in charge is dropping that idea as he and other senators agree with the top that agree cutting commanders out of the legal process would undermine their ability to enforce order and discipline within the ranks. he will offer an alternative that will have other military leaders review cases of abuse. it comes a week after the highest military ranking officials were grilled on capitol hill about the alarming rate of sexual assaults in the military.

>> we need to know how many men and women are being raped and sexually assaulted on an annual basis and we have no idea.

>> the pentagon estimates 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted or abused last year but only 3600 victims actually reported the attacks.

>> having someone been your direct chain of command handling the case doesn't make sense.

>> reporter: the senator shared her frustration here on today.

>> well, i think when you have these cases occurring over and over again and there's no response and there's no accountability for these kinds of rapes and crimes it allows the culture to continue and that's why we think we need dramatic change.

>> reporter: so the options left are not many. they can try to put this forward some months from now. members on the committee want to see changes that will help to curb this serious problem but it will be awhile before they figure out the best way to do that.

>> kelly o'donnell on capitol hill , thank you kelly .