Military rejects limits in sexual assault cases

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FILE – In this May 17, 2013 file photo Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, speaks during a Pentagon news conference about sexual assaults in the military, among other topics. Dempsey and the four-star chiefs of the services are scheduled to testify Tuesday, June 4, 2013, at a high-stakes Senate hearing on congressional proposals to modify the military justice system to stem the flow of the escalating number of sexual assaults that have outraged Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's military leaders are insisting that commanders keep their authority to handle sexual assault cases.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the head of each branch of the military, told a Senate panel on Tuesday that commanders are critical to the legal system.

Dempsey said stripping commanders of some authority could adversely affect the mission.

Lawmakers led by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand are pushing legislation to remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial.

Dempsey and the service chiefs made a rare joint appearance at a Capitol Hill hearing on the epidemic of sexual assault in the military.