(CNN) - Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand maintained Friday that the authority for prosecuting sexual assault in the military needs to be taken out of the chain of command.
"What we see from the victims," the New York Democrat said on CNN's "New Day," "They're not reporting these crimes because they don't trust the chain of command. They actually don't feel they will get justice in the system."
The original provision in pending military sexual assault legislation would have taken the decision about prosecuting such crimes out of the chain of command. However, it was replaced by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan. Instead, the bill approved by the committee last week would require review of prosecution decisions by more senior leaders and would make it a crime to retaliate against those who report an assault.
Gillibrand has vowed to continue fighting to take the decision out of the chain of command, preferring that it be made by independent military prosecutors. Senior military leaders have argued that removing that authority would harm a commander's ability to lead effectively.
"You're taking one legal decision away, you're not taking their power away," Gillibrand said Friday. "The only decision points we're removing from the chain of command is that for whether a serious crime goes to trial; rapes, murders, sexual assaults."
Gillibrand cited potential conflicts of interest for commanders who may know both victim and perpetrator.
"Until you have the prosecutions and people going to trial and have the transparency and accountability, you're never going to change this culture within the military," she said. "You're never going to have a place where men and women feel that they are safe serving our nation."