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Hagel Wants to Take Power to Overturn Court-Martial Out of Commanders’ Hands

Major change to Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is in response to one case that angered Boxer, other lawmakers.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

April 8, 2013 - 6:12 pm
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“Second, requiring the convening authority to explain in writing any changes made to court-martial sentences, as well as any changes to findings involving minor offenses. The intent is to ensure that convening authorities are required to justify — in an open, transparent, and recorded manner — any decision to modify a court martial sentence,” Hagel continued. “…I look forward to working with Congress on these proposals and others to improve accountability for these crimes.”

Boxer lauded the announcement as a pledge kept by the new Defense secretary.

“I am grateful that Secretary Hagel has lived up to his promise to seriously address the epidemic of sexual assault in our Armed Forces,” she said. “This is the beginning of a long process to ensure that victims of military sexual assault—whether they are women or men—get justice.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) noted Hagel’s proposal mirrors the legislation she introduced last month in response to the Wilkerson case, and her office tweeted that Hagel’s announcement “endorses” McCaskill’s changes.

But a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee said Hagel ignored a mid-March bipartisan request for a briefing on the convening authority’s power in the case and proposed reforms.

“Instead, once again, they rushed to provide the press an extensive briefing on the issue, but none to Chairman [Buck] McKeon, members or staff of the Armed Services Committee,” said Claude Chafin. “This, despite a bipartisan letter from the chairman and other members sent to Secretary Hagel on March 12, asking for his views on the changes that should be made to Article 60 of the UCMJ.”

“Chairman McKeon sees eye-to-eye with Secretary Hagel on much of his reform agenda. The prospects for success would be much improved if members and staff learned of important policy developments from senior commanders or DoD officials, not the press,” Chafin continued.

“Reporters have now had an opportunity to question senior defense officials about this important legislative proposal; members of this committee are still waiting for their chance.”

The committee had sought “an analysis of the underlying rationale for the convening authority’s role and responsibilities in the UCMJ,” a summary of times that authority has been exerted since 2008, and an analysis of how other military justice systems address the role of the convening authority in courts-martial.

“What changes, if any, should be made to Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice?” committee Republicans and Democrats asked.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Hagel for a closed-door meeting in the Oval Office tomorrow.

Hagel added today that sexual assault “is damaging this institution.”

“I am currently reviewing other options and actions to strengthen the department’s prevention and response efforts, and will announce those decisions and actions soon. Consistent with the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, I will soon be naming individuals to sit on independent panels to review and assess the systems used to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate crimes involving sexual assault, and judicial proceedings of sexual assault cases,” he said. “I will closely review their recommendations when complete.”

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Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
Ah, here we go again. The "Sandy Hook" Shuffle - because of one lone event, sweeping changes *must* be made.

Funny how the changes lead directly to more Federal control of a thing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (20)
All Comments   (20)
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Just remember, don't call Babs Bouncer "Mam"!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Military is a heirarchial place. It must be so. The Commander has one overall responsibility; insuring the military effectiveness of his unit. Other factors, even sometimes justice, are secondary. This is the business of lives.

Allowing the Commander to set aside or reduce verdicts and sentences is a part of maintaining that effectiveness.

OTOH, I see no objection to requiring him to justify his actions, in writing, to his civilian superiors.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ah, here we go again. The "Sandy Hook" Shuffle - because of one lone event, sweeping changes *must* be made.

Funny how the changes lead directly to more Federal control of a thing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, that's part of the problem. Granted.

The other part of the problem goes quite a bit deeper than that. JAG? Most of them are left-wingers. The rest? Corruption, cronyism, nepotism...and worse. That's before you get into the idea that service members have no habeas corpus rights. You have no constitutional rights while on active duty. Guilt or innocence at every level is often decided on 'the good of the service' instead of evidence, proofs, facts, or any lack thereof. Your defense attourney? Don't expect him or her to rock the boat on your behalf. It ain't gonn ahappen. He'll put on a good show, at best. In any case, you're screwed before the court convenes. One way or the other, your case has already been decided before the court convenes, unless there's a lot of publicity involved. I learned a lot researching for The Haditha Marines and S/SGT Wuterich. I wasn't happy to learn it. The only reasoin -the ONLY reason- those men weren't buried in deep, dark holes is because of all of the publicity about those cases.

So, when someone wants to trash talk the military justice system, these days, I listen...even if it is Hagel who's doing the trashing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If Chairman McKeon reallys wants to talk with Hagel, he can issue a subpeona. If guys like Hagel want to play games, then guys like McKeon need to bring the bat.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Like a subpoena would do any good. It would be nullified by an executive order.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Granted how tenuous civilian control of the military and the intelligence agencies is in this country, I'm in favor of any step that limits the arbitrary power of military honchos. It's not as if military justice contained a great deal of justice as it is. Allowing Generals to interfere in an already highly imperfect process is hardly going to improve things.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
To all Pjmedia readers,
Please don't waste your time responding to Jim Harrishmuck a.k.a. Jim Hitlerson. He has venomous opinions about everything. He thinks he knows everything about everything. He thinks he has the answer to all of the world's problems. He's what Thomas Sowell might call a self-anointed messiah. He's too ignorant to understand how ignorant he is. He's extremely childish. He throws tantrums. He evades questions. He hates Jews and hates Israel. Please don't pay attention, to this immature, malignant, narcissistic, anti-Semitic demagogue.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Which branch did you serve in, Jim? I am assuming you served because of your intimate knowledge of such service.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dear Fred Beloit:
There's no point in engaging Harrishmuck. Arguing with him is like arguing with a klansman burning a cross on your front lawn. The racist sewage that oozes out of Harrishmuck's schizophrenic brain would embarass David Duke or Tom Metzger or J.B. Stoner. So his opinions on any subject need to be ignored.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So, Chuck Hagel is going to let wingnut Barbara Boxer push him around....Wonderful.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sadly, the author of this article is way behind the times of both the story and the building outrage withinin the enlisted and officer ranks that drove not only this particular story, but other similar high ranking events. This has been a building event for more than three years, highlighting the inequities of justice in the services between the enlisted and high ranking officers corps. Of all the services poublications the Army Times is where you can acurately backgreound this stroy overr the past three years as most of the abuse and ineqities has been in the Army.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You might want to consider waiting until you are sober before submitting a comment, Zekie. I have made mistakes too, but really...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Freddie I don't drink bud! I'm one of the unfortunate that God didn't create perfect but.... I have perfected my imperfections. :) You get my age and have the hands I have from good healthy hard labor for almost more than seven decades then we can talk. I didn't choose to sit in some fluff office or job perfecting typing skills. We left that to the women in my day! :)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a 24-year USAF NCO, I can tell you that the enlisted/officeer inequality of punishment is huge within the force.

SSgt Smith gets a DUI? Its stripes, a fine, no driving on base, and good luck re-enlisting.

Major Doe gets a DUI? maybe an LOR. But he for sure won't lose rank, and in my experience will still be allowed to drive on base.

This needs to be fixed. Is the way its being pushed right now correct? Good question. Not sure I like the way its being done.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Harald, you are correct, and the AF, but for a more recent situation has a pretty good record compared to the Army. After three years of rebel yelling the Army woke up and is doing something about it. Last year they fired more than 50 toxic Colonels and LTC's and just today I see where they fired another general. We now have a SOD and an Army staff commnad corps who knows how to clean up the military and too what standards. In th old days the command level appellant process was not abused in any of the branches for SCM prceeding down. For GCMs it was similar to the civil process and then reviewed the appropriate staff command and rareely ever reversed or modified at that level. Not sure when this new policy got started but was after my 24 years of Marine Corps. It needs fixing as the last thing needed is for our officers corps to display even a hint of judical corruption and or bias and loose their credibility among the junior officers and the enlisted ranks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
24 years = 34 years
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dear Harald:
Thank you for your service to our country.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So, let me get this straight---Lady Democrats want to enable the War on Women.

Right?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ah, good. More power to the politburo.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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