Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Questions for General Austin

Just Security has posted comments and questions for General Lloyd Austin's SECDEF confirmation hearing from 15 commentators. Here is Global Military Justice Reform contributor Prof. Rachel E. VanLandingham's entry:
Some of the most pressing internal issues facing the next secretary of defense deal with the mental and physical health of the women and men in uniform, as well as the climate within military units that either protect those serving or help destroy them. From the continuing scourge of sexual assault within the ranks; the presence of extremists in uniform; the underreported yet stark recent increase of military suicides; and the racial disparities that continue to plague armed forces, the next secretary of defense faces numerous personnel challenges.
What will Secretary Austin do to right the military ship on these fronts? How will he ensure an inclusive military that values all its people equally in deed and not just word? How will he ensure mental health provision is better resourced and promoted? How will he ensure the military justice system is equally utilized, instead of disproportionately rendering “justice” against Black service-members more than White? How will he ensure that appropriate action is taken regarding allegations of sexual assault, when a shockingly high number of women don’t trust their leadership enough to even report they’ve been assaulted or harassed by fellow service members? How will he hold commanders accountable for their failures on the leadership front, given that commanders’ leadership is key to helping improve all these pressing issues and yet they are rarely held to account for their abuses of leadership, particularly within the military justice system?
The core strength of the U.S. military isn’t its multi-billion-dollar aircraft carriers and fancy fighter aircraft. The U.S. military’s number one resource is its people, performing at the top of their game in an inclusive environment that values each individual and their contribution to the team – within an organization that provides just, equal, fair, and speedy accountability for those who refuse to meet fair standards. How will Secretary Austin ensure the just military that our men and women in uniform were promised and deserve?
And here is the Editor's:
1. The Joint Service Committee on Military Justice issued a report last year in response to § 540F of the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act. The report stated that “ensuring the U.S. system complies with human rights obligations is undoubtedly not a U.S. concern.” Do you agree?
2. What is your view on whether the power to decide who is prosecuted for what under the Uniform Code of Military Justice should be transferred from nonlawyer commanders to uniformed lawyers independent of the chain of command?
3. Should commanders continue to have the power to pick members of military juries?
4. At present, the overwhelming majority of armed forces personnel who are convicted by courts-martial do not have a right to seek direct appellate review by the Supreme Court. If you are confirmed, will you support legislation to fix this injustice?
5. If you are confirmed, what specific steps will you take to prevent unlawful command influence in courts-martial?

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