TEXAS, USA — Several members of congress gathered at the Capitol Tuesday morning to call for justice for Fort Hood Soldier Vanessa Guillen and discuss steps they are taking to end sexual harassment and assault in the U.S. Military and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Among them was Texas Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia who has already sent the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General a letter asking for a a full and independent investigation into SPC Guillen’s disappearance and murder.
That letter is signed by 86 other congress members including 8 other Texas representatives. The three representatives with districts around Fort Hood, however, where not on the.
Tuesday 6 News reached out to Representatives Bill Flores, John Carter, and Roger Williams asking if they would also support Garcia's call for an investigation. 6 News got a response from Carter's Office and Williams's office, while Flores's staff did not respond.
Carter's staff did not address the investigation in their response.
Williams's staff sent back a statement saying only, "The Congressman has called upon the Department of Defense and law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation that leads to those responsible being fully brought to justice."
It said nothing of a independent investigation.
6 News also reached out to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
Cornyn's office directed 6 News to a previous quote from the Senator from July 2:
"This is under criminal investigation right now, and I think the appropriate thing for us to do is to let the criminal investigators complete their work, and then Congress can decide to conduct its own investigation. I’m sure we will, for any number of reasons. One is we want all young women who volunteer to serve in our militaries to be able to do so without harassment, and to be safe and secure, but this also raises questions about the chain of command and the environment in which this might have occurred. We don’t know the answers to those questions yet, but I do think after the criminal investigation is completed, that would be the appropriate time for Congress then to weigh in and perform our oversight responsibilities,” Cornyn said.
Cruz's office never sent a response to our questions.
Also at the press conference Tuesday morning was Congresswoman Julia Brownley (CA-26), and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), who called for and end to sexual harassment in the military along with Garcia.
Speier is planing to tackle the issue with legislation and had already filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes the budget for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Speier's office told 6 News the congresswoman has two bipartisan NDAA amendments that require the Department of Defense to establish a confidential reporting process for sexual harassment, with those reports being included in the DOD’s Catch a Serial Offender program, and to require GAO to report on the military’s procedures to respond to missing service members. Speier is also planning to introduce stand alone legislation on the issue next week.
"I intend to introduce a comprehensive bill to address how sexual harassment is handled, investigated, and prosecuted in the U.S. Military." Speier said a the press conference.
Speier's Staff told 6 News the bill "includes removing sexual harassment and assault prosecutions from the chain of command and making sexual harassment punishable as a specific offense within the Uniform Code of Military Justice."
When 6 News also asked local U.S. representatives and Senators if they would support any of these bills or amendments, only Carter's office send back a response to our question.
“It’s crucial that the men and women that serve our country feel safe to report problems. There is absolutely no place for sexual misconduct in our nation’s military, and I support Rep. Speier’s Amendment to expand service members’ ability to confidentially report sexual harassment. To create a safer military, it’s crucial that victims are safe to report so those responsible are held accountable for their actions,” Carter said.
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