Thursday, May 22, 2014

Where have all the cases gone?

Military Times's Andrew Tilghman has a lengthy and provocative article on trends in U.S. courts-martial and nonjudicial punishment. It's well worth reading and has kicked up a lively discussion over at

Here are some key data from the article:
With all the concerns in Washington these days about misconduct in the ranks, one might think the military justice system is swamped with unruly troops and commanders looking to crack down on them.
In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Across the force, the military is meting out far less punishment today than just a few years ago. It’s a hard-to-explain trend that has many military justice experts wondering whether commanders have lowered expectations for keeping troops in line — or simply gone soft on some forms of misconduct.
Over the 10 years from 2004 to 2013, data from the service judge advocates [general] show:
■ Courts-martial have dropped about 50 percent.
■ Nonjudicial punishments are down about 25 percent.
■ Bad-conduct discharges have fallen by more than 60 percent.
And according to the Justice Department, the number of troops convicted of crimes and incarcerated in military prisons has shrunk by 35 percent.
What's your theory? 


  1. christopher chaiMay 22, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    My assessment /theory is that…

    Commanders are hesitant and reluctant about cracking down on misconduct behaviors because, under their command, troops have been in and out of multiple deployments from 2003 – present. I don’t think commanders are being soft - they ask from their troops to do their duty and accomplish their mission…most of us (soldiers) do just that without any questions asked. Along the way, crimes are committed…commanders simply look the other way or make effort to see the soldiers' hard-work put forth under his/her command, not the crime. Some commanders articulate it as, "I protect my soldiers under my command..." Problem with that is, by protecting one of their favored or liked soldiers, another soldier is being screwed over and betrayed, or not rightfully "protected". Some commanders make the claim that they are protecting their soldiers, but they don't see that by unfairly protecting one, they are betraying another - in my opinion, this is not justice or ethical, but simply bias.

    Another good reason why commanders shouldn't be involved in the investigation or prosecution process when it comes to felony type crimes.

  2. Christopher, I second your opinion that the last decade of war has something to do with it. To paraphrase arguments made by Generals Harmon and Decker after the implementation of the code: the system will not work as well in time of total mobilization, when a commander's energy and resources must be directed towards winning battles, not lawsuits.

  3. In the New Zealand context, I have noted that personnel who are deployed tend to commit fewer offences than those who are not. The old adage "idle hands are the devil's plaything" may be apposite. It's based on a different context and on a much smaller scale, but perhaps an analogy can be drawn with what has happened in respect of U.S. forces?


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