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Top military officials share their views on legislative proposal to alter military justice system

The military officials wrote about their views regarding the proposed Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act of 2021.

Updated: June 22, 2021 - 7:09pm

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Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe has released letters by top military officials discussing their assessments regarding the proposed Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act of 2021.

"It is my professional opinion that removing commanders from the prosecution decisions, process, and accountability may have an adverse effect on readiness, mission accomplishment, good order and discipline, justice, unit cohesion, trust, and loyalty between commanders and those they lead. However, in the specific and limited circumstance of sexual assault, I remain open-minded to all solutions," Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley wrote in his letter. "I urge caution to ensure any changes to commander authority to enforce discipline be rigorously analyzed, evidence-based, and narrow in scope, limited only to sexual assault and related offenses."

The Hill reported that the Independent Review Commission empaneled by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to consider how to better combat sexual assault in the military suggested pulling  the choice to prosecute sexual assault and harassment out of commanders' hands and instead providing that power to independent prosecutors. But the proposed legislation which the military officials discussed in their letters would go even further, pulling the choice to prosecute sexual assault as well as other crimes from the chain of command, according to the outlet.

"Due to the significant investment the Army is making in awareness, prevention, and intervention, my best military advice continues to be that removing commanders' case disposition authority would be detrimental to the good order and discipline required for effective warfighting," Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said in his letter. "Recognizing the concerns of Congress, the investments by the Army, and the unique responsibilities of command, I recommend that, rather than remove responsibility from commanders, Congress statutorily elevate disposition authority over these offenses to the O-6 Brigade Command level. These commanders have the experience, maturity, and judgment, as well as access to legal resources, that allow them to make informed and wise decisions."

Inhofe also released letters by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday, Commandant of the Marine Corps. Gen. David Berger, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond and National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson.