Rooney Nomination As Navy No. 2 Clears Hurdle

Rooney Nomination As Navy No. 2 Clears Hurdle

The controversial nomination of Jo Ann Rooney as Under Secretary of the Navy passed the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday despite opposition from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., over the nominee’s remarks on sexual assaults in the military.

What had been expected to be a routine confirmation last October of Rooney’s nomination to the post as the Navy’s No. 2 civilian ran into a firestorm of criticism from Gillibrand and others when Rooney defended the role of commanders overseeing sexual assault cases.

Rooney, a Massachusetts financial lawyer, is a former president of Mount Ida College in Massachusetts. Since June 2011, she has been serving as principal Deputy Defense Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness.


As Under Secretary of the Navy, Rooney would report directly to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and the four assistant Secretaries of the Navy would report to her.

In her written responses to preliminary questions from the committee, Rooney made clear her opposition to Gillibrand’s proposed legislation that would take commanders out of the chain of command in sexual assault cases, and give their current authority to independent prosecutors from the Judge Advocate General’s corps.

“A judge advocate outside the chain of command will be looking at a case through a different lens than a military commander,” Rooney said in a statement. “I believe the impact would be decisions based on evidence rather than the interest in preserving good order and discipline.”

Gillibrand’s proposal to strip commanders of their role in sexual assault cases and rely solely on evidence would be counter-productive, Rooney said.

“I believe this will result in fewer prosecutions and therefore defeat the very problem that I understand it (Gillibrand’s bill) seeks to address,” she said.

Rooney’s statements reflected the positions taken by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on sexual assaults in the military, but Gillibrand said she was “extremely troubled” by Rooney’s remarks.

Gillibrand added that it was “shocking statements like those of Jo Ann Rooney that further erode” the trust sexual assault victims place in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“The United States legal system is based on evidence, justice and due process,” Gillibrand said. “If you were a service member raped on duty, why would you have confidence to come forward and report after hearing that basing decisions to prosecute solely on evidence would be a bad outcome?”

Rooney later sought to clarify her remarks. In a letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the SASC, Rooney said her “original answer expresses the view that commanders must evaluate more than the evidence,” and also consider good order and discipline in the ranks.

“Prosecutors, in my experience, evaluate evidence with an eye toward whether a conviction is likely,” she said. “Commanders consider additional factors.”

“As a result, commanders may refer cases to courts-martial that a judge advocate might not, or otherwise impose penalties such as non-judicial punishment,” Rooney said.

Gillibrand’s office said last night that the senator was still opposed to Rooney and had not lifted her “hold” on the nomination, meaning that Rooney’s nomination would require 60 votes from the full Senate for confirmation.

The Under Secretary’s post has been vacant since last spring when Bob Work resigned last May to become chief executive officer for the Center for a New American Security think tank. Robert Martinage, the deputy Navy Under Secretary for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration, has been serving as acting Under Secretary since Work’s departure.

Rooney, a Massachusetts financial lawyer, is a former president of Mount Ida College in Massachusetts. Since June 2011, she has been serving as principal Deputy Defense Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness.

As Under Secretary of the Navy, Rooney would report directly to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and the four assistant Secretaries of the Navy would report to her.

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Hell yea we don’t want decisions based on evidence — it would upset the whole pretense of moral and good order.

So, to hell with the evidence if it points to a sexual assault in the interest of “good order and disclipline”?

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