Washington (CNN) – About a dozen members of Congress were invited to meet at the White House Thursday with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and the first lady's chief of staff Tina Tchen to address the issue of sexual assault in the military, a senior administration official said.
The official did not provide names of the lawmakers invited to the bicameral bipartisan meeting, but CNN confirmed three of the guests were Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.
Gillibrand said the meeting was "very important and productive meeting" were legislative ideas were discussed.
"I strongly believe that to change the paradigm of chronic non-reporting it is essential to move decision making away from the chain of command to trained legal prosecutors so that victims do not have to report to their bosses," she said in a statement. "It was clear to me the White House is dedicated to taking action that will reform the system to better protect our brave men and women."
Klobuchar said the country has made "some progress" in new policies on sexual assault, but "the recent report underscores the critical need for continued action to prevent this crime and this meeting is one positive step forward for advancing solutions." She recently introduced a bill to crack down on sexual assault in the military.
Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also introduced legislation this week with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, to combat sexual assault.
“We must strengthen existing laws and policies so that perpetrators face justice and victims can come forward without fear of retribution and with confidence that they will receive the support, care, and justice they deserve," she said in a statement.
The number of service members anonymously reporting sexual assault grew by more than 30% in the past two years, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday.
The Defense Department estimated that more than 26,000 troops experienced an episode of "unwanted sexual contact," a huge jump from the 19,300 figure in the 2010 report.
Meanwhile, Air Force officials faced questions this week about the branch chief for the service's program designed to prevent sexual assault, who was arrested and charged with sexual battery over the weekend.
President Obama on Tuesday said he had "no tolerance" for sexual assault in the military and vowed to go at the problem "hard."
"We have to do everything we can to root this out," the president said during a joint press conference with South Korea's new president.
"I don’t want just more speeches or awareness programs or training but, ultimately, folks look the other way. If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they've got to be held accountable - prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged," he added. "Period. It's not acceptable."
The official said the meeting is following up on the president's pledge as a "first step."
– CNN's Steve Almasy and Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.