In a recent memo released to the public from the desk of United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) should be relied upon more often to discipline and penalize military service members who carry out misconduct, violations, and crimes. Within the few short lines of text in the memo, it is asserted that administrative actions are wrongfully substituting court-martial or military court, which is allegedly allowing “malignant behavior” from spreading through the ranks.
Mattis continues his brief explanation for the memo by stating commanders have come to rely on the “easier wrong” choice to avoid the “harder right” choice. The language indicates he believes the misconduct carried out by service members is a consequence of high command leniency. Mattis ended the memo by saying strictly disciplined troops are the best prepared for the hardships of war.
According to Military Times, a popular newsgroup that follows military-related news stories, UCMJ punishments have rapidly declined since a brief spike in 2007. This is not indicative of a decline in service member misconduct and criminal violations, though. Instead, commanders seem to have leaned heavily on administrative penalties, like administrative separation that does not necessarily involve court-martial to reach a conclusion or a conviction.
It is also worth noting that Mattis’ announcement has followed closely on the heels of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act’s signing. Within the Act, new legal language was added to specify domestic violence as a crime separate from other forms of assault. With both articles considered, it could be possible that the near-future will bring a dramatic rise in UCMJ-based discipline.
(You can learn more about this ongoing story by clicking here and viewing a full article from Military Times.)
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