It seems to be common ground that efforts to date to curb sexual assault in the U.S. armed forces have not been successful. What to do?
One good thing not to do is propose, as is currently happening in the House of Representatives, that disposition decisions in cases arising at the service academies be made by prosecutors outside the chain of command. Who could possibly object?
This actually is not a good idea because it would create a second system of military justice, just for the service academies and just for sex offenses. So much for the "U" in UCMJ. It also would leave George III's commander-centric system in place for the lion's share of military personnel and offenses.
Instead, Congress should take charging decisions for all non-minor offenses away from all commanders and give that critical power to lawyer prosecutors outside the chain of command. (And remove commanders' equally indefensible power to pick jurors.)
Here is an excerpt from the Military Times report by Leo Shane III:
[Rep. Jackie] Speier’s plan is a four-year pilot program establishing an independent chief prosecutor to review all sexual assault reports at military academies and determine which cases should be referred to court-martial.
Sexual assault victims’ advocates have pushed for the traditional military chain of command to be removed from those decisions in the past, arguing that senior military leaders are either ill-informed about how to proceed with such cases or inclined to dismiss them to conceal problems in the ranks.
Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, unsuccessfully tried to offer an alternative plan, arguing the new pilot program set a problematic new legal precedent by handling sexual assault cases in the active-duty force differently from ones at the academies.
He and other Republican members also argued that the move would de-emphasize commanders’ role in ending sexual assault and harassment instead of holding them accountable for the offenses.
The provision requires the independent official would be a one-star general or admiral with “significant experience prosecuting sexual assault trials” who is independent from the academies.
Before the idea can become reality, the idea must survive negotiations with Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have for years opposed similar proposed moves from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Defense Department officials have also strongly objected to the idea, promising their own series of fixes to address the problem of criminal behavior among troops.