Friday, November 28, 2014

Will an outside observer suit the military suits?

Friend and colleague ASPALS blogs about a new development affecting British military personnel. 
26 November 2014, the Defence Committee held a pre-appointment hearing with Nicola Williams, the Government's preferred candidate for the post of Service Complaints Commissioner. Today, the Committee publishes a Report supporting her appointment (Sixth Report, Session 2014-15, HC 832).The Report is available on the Committee's website,
Here is a link to an explanation of the Service Complaints Commissioner's duties
The current Service complaints process was introduced by the Armed Forces Act 2006 and came into effect on 1 January 2008, replacing the separate single Service legislation and processes that had previously existed. The 2006 Act also established the office of the Service Complaints Commissioner. The Commissioner's role in the complaints process has two functions:
·  To provide an alternative point of contact for Service personnel, or someone acting on their behalf, such as a family member, a friend or MP, who for whatever reason does not have the confidence, or is not able, to raise allegations of bullying, harassment, discrimination or other improper behaviour directly with the chain of command; and
·  To providence independent assurance on the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the service complaints system to ministers, the Services and Parliament by way of an annual report. 
I wonder if this is also where the U.S. may be headed.  The Department of Defense and each of the Services have a Inspector General with appropriate investigators and examiners.  The DoD IG was created in 1982 as an amendment to the Inspector General Act of 1978.  A complaint may be made in several ways:  through Article 138, UCMJ, if the complaint is against the commanding officer; to a congressional representative; or through the relevant military inspector general.  The complaining individual is protected from retaliation by statute.

The IG covers a broad range of issues, many of them related to personnel.  One of the important current personnel issues relates to suicide and suicide prevention.  Here is the DoD IG report from 14 November 2014.

The integrity and effectiveness has been under significant challenge as a result of the military sexual assault problem.  A significant complaint has been about retaliation for making a sexual assault allegation.  Others have complained about the effectiveness of the various forms of redress, but there has been less visibility and traction for change until the military sexual assault interest.

ASPALS asks the provocative question, “The continuing march to civilianising [sic] the armed forces?” Consistent with the legislative proposals removing court-martial jurisdiction in regard to sexual assault cases -- well -- possibly coming to a military near you -- a fully civilianized external IG or complaints commission to replace that within the military.

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