THE HOPE that Congress would adopt bold measures to end the epidemic of sexual abuse within the military seems headed for the same heap of broken promises that has accompanied each new scandal over decades. Disappointing moves in the House and Senate last week failed to address the core issue of a biased chain of command. Unless there’s a change of heart — or action by a commander in chief who claims to want results — unwanted sexual contact and assaults in the ranks will continue to go unreported and unpunished.
Legislation that would have taken decisions about sexual assault cases out of the chain of command and placed them in the hands of independent prosecutors was killed Wednesday in a Senate committee; the House refused even to discuss the matter. The Senate Armed Services Committee was the scene of an emotional debate as supporters of the measure, which had bipartisan support, pointed to the abject failure of military officials — dating to the first publicly known scandal in 1991 — to fix the problem.