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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 veteran 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 is an NPR contributor and 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   (15)
All Comments   (15)
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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
So, Chuck Hagel is going to let wingnut Barbara Boxer push him around....Wonderful.
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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