The Pentagon has proposed new changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice after a review ordered by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, according to a release. Hagel in 2013, under pressure from members of Congress about the handling of several sexual assault cases, directed the Military Justice Review Group to examine the UCMJ and its implementation in the Manual for Courts Martial. The new proposal is the “first comprehensive military justice reform package submitted to Congress by the Department of Defense in more than 30 years,” according to the press release. The proposal includes 37 statutory additions and significant amendments to 68 current provisions. The changes would include establishing selection criteria for military judges and mandating tour lengths, allowing military judges to handle specified legal issues before the referral of a case to court-martial, mandating additional training for commanders and convening authorities for the proper use of UCMJ authority, replacing the current sentencing standard with a system of judicial discretion, providing service members the opportunity to obtain judicial review in all cases, and changing the automatic appeal of cases to a system in which the accused would determine whether to appeal. Additionally, the proposal would institute new offenses, including fraudulent use of credit and debit cards, offense concerning government computers, and prohibited activities with military recruits and trainees by person in position of special trust. (View the Military Justice Review Group’s full report, and a summary of major proposals, by clicking here.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.