Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley says he’s encouraged by new Department of Defense directives announced this week that will implement several provisions of a bill he introduced one year ago. The directives are designed to improve policies to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence in the military.

“These are very serious issues and it’s encouraging to see the Department of Defense taking it very seriously,” Braley said. The announcement from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta followed a meeting between Braley and several other House members with Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey.

Braley noted the Pentagon will now require sexual assault allegations be immediately reported to senior commanders, who will then consider if the case should proceed to a court martial. The new Department of Defense directives will implement several provisions of Braley’s Holley Lynn James Act – introduced last April.

The bill is named for a woman who was killed by her husband while both were in the service. James, who’s parents still live in Dubuque, had filed complaints against her husband. He was supposed to be restricted to his barracks the night Holley was killed. Braley said too many sexual assault cases in the military have either not been investigated or prosecuted.

“I was very adamant that it is not appropriate to call this a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ when we have so far to go to make that a reality, as evidenced by the amount of under reported claims and the failure to get significant numbers of prosecutions and convictions,” Braley said.