Friday, February 12, 2016

State and federal military justice reform

Here's an interesting op-ed from the Juneau Empire in Alaska, where the state code of military justice is being revised. The author writes:
In Alaska, state law already requires that civilian authorities prosecute criminal offenses within the National Guard that aren’t of a military nature. What that means is any Guard member accused of sexual abuse would be prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office. And more importantly, the officers within his chain of command would have no authority over the case. 
But in the U.S. armed forces, the commanding officer of the accused can exercise prosecutorial discretion that includes an outright dismissal of charges. And even if the commanding officer recommends a court-martial, he or she decides which charges are to be prosecuted and also chooses who will sit on the jury. 
The Military Justice Improvement Reform Act would change that by giving all prosecuting authorities to full-fledged military attorneys outside the chain of command. It’s got bipartisan support that includes unlikely allies such as Sens. Harry Reid, D-NV, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). Three quarters of the Senate’s women support the reform, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski
On the other side, 15 of the 20 men in the Senate who have served in the military oppose it, including Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. They and the rest of the bill’s opponents have mainly bought the military brass’ argument that stripping commanders of this responsibility would undermine military order and discipline. 
But the reality is order and discipline are already being compromised by the 52 new cases of unwanted sexual contact that, according to the Pentagon, occur every day. By denying this, the generals are acting more like the Catholic Church hierarchy that’s shielded abusive priests in hopes of preserving the institution’s respectable image.

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