About Face: US Military Seeks Historic Overhaul of Justice System

Pentagon aims to fundamentally reform the way America’s men and women experience justice while in uniform



After years of concern over sexual assault in the military, the Defense Department has proposed the most far-reaching reforms to its justice system in decades.


The proposal, introduced with little notice in late December, would fundamentally change the way America's men and women experience justice while in uniform.


"It's a potential sea change," said Charles Erdmann, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the military's highest court. "These would be the biggest reforms in 30 years."


For the first time, the Pentagon would issue sentencing guidelines for military crimes. All convicted service members would have a right to appeal. Military judges would determine sentences, replacing a power long held by juries made up of soldiers with little or no legal experience.


But Congressional critics of the military justice system noted that neither the legislation, nor the 1,300-page review that prompted it, addressed a fundamental issue: the role of commanders.

In court martials, senior commanders decide whether to press charges, select juries and in some cases provide clemency for troops under their command, raising concerns about the impartiality of prosecutions.


"It is telling that a supposedly holistic review of the military justice system completely ignores the role of the commander," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York who has battled with Pentagon leaders over changes to its code. "Until we reform the foundation of the military justice system to remove bias, all efforts to fix its shortcomings will be incomplete."


Some Congressional insiders are skeptical of the military's intent. If the Pentagon manages to obtain approval for the bill, it will be harder to make a case for further changes, such as removing military commanders from making decisions on criminal cases. There is also doubt about the bill's chances. It's a complex piece of legislation moving through the Hill during an election year. Key players among Republicans and Democrats who have supported the Pentagon on military justice issues have yet to weigh in on the proposal.


A Pentagon spokesman said the proposed legislation did not address the issue of the commanders' role because a previous Congressionally established panel recommended no changes.


"The current review focused on measures to improve the current process rather than on revisiting the underlying fundamental policy," said Army Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, a Department of Defense spokesman.


Military leaders hallow their justice system. First adopted during the Revolutionary War, some parts have existed unchanged for more than 200 years. Even today, sailors can be put on a diet of bread and water for minor infractions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.


The code is a means to convey both justice and military discipline. For instance, soldiers can be tried for going AWOL (punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a dishonorable discharge) or for disrespecting an officer (up to one year in prison and a bad conduct discharge).


They can also face trial for crimes ranging from kiting checks to rape and murder. Military courts can try soldiers for crimes that have no direct connection to military service 2014 a soldier assaulting a local resident during an off-base bar fight, for example. Commanders argue that they need such power to ensure order and discipline in military ranks.


Over the decades, military leaders have wrestled with the tension inherent in the system. The last big overhaul resulted from complaints during World War II when, all told, more than 1.7 million troops were tried in court martials. Soldiers fighting for democratic freedoms found themselves subject to a judicial system that many felt was arbitrary and unjust.


"At the end of the war, many people were mad as hell," said Fred L. Borch, III, a historian for the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps and former chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo military commissions. "No matter what they did or what they said, they were found guilty."

The current proposal comes after years of controversy over the military's handling of sexual assault.


"The Invisible War," a 2012 documentary, provoked outrage after finding that active duty female soldiers serving in combat zones were more likely to be raped by a comrade than killed by an enemy.


A year later, in a closely watched case, Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin vacated a court martial conviction of a subordinate officer for sexually assaulting a civilian medical worker, prompting a review by then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.


In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, a survey estimated that nearly 19,000 service members had been subjected to "unwanted sexual contact." That compared to 6,131 official reports of sexual assault that year. About 1,600 cases resulted in some sort of action for sexual assault violations.


The Defense Department responded with a barrage of blue-ribbon commissions and fact-finding bodies. Congress imposed more than three dozen changes to the military codes for sexual assault.

Rape victims now have the right to a special attorney to represent them in court. Their sexual histories cannot be used by defense counsel. Most significantly, military commanders were stripped of their abilities to dismiss sentences in felony cases, including sexual assault.


But senior military officials feared that many of the changes focused on sex crimes without regard to the rest of the system. For instance, survivors of attempted murder or aggravated assault do not have guaranteed access to a special representative in court. In addition, there were concerns that the system had tipped in favor of victims over the accused.


In 2013, Hagel approved a "holistic review" of the entire military justice system. Andrew Effron, a former chief judge, was appointed to lead the effort.


The result addressed many long-standing concerns. Unlike in civilian courts, military juries determine both guilt and the sentence for an offender. But the members of the panel, enlisted men and officers picked by the military officer who convened the court martial, are not required to have any legal training. The Pentagon proposal would give military judges a more central role, allowing them to determine punishments and discharges.


In addition, the Pentagon plan would set out typical minimum and maximum punishments over the coming years to provide guidance to judges. And the size of military juries 2014 which can vary from five people to 15 or more 2014 would be standardized.


The reforms also provide that all offenders can appeal their convictions 2014 a right previously guaranteed only to those who received more than a year in prison, or a punitive discharge.

Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders, a group dedicated to improving military handling of sexual assault, acknowledged that the proposed changes were far-reaching.

But the central issue of the commander's influence, he said, remained untouched.


"There's a debate raging in the halls of Congress and the media and it's not addressed," said Christensen, the former chief prosecutor for the Air Force. "That's a problem."


ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.







Real estate bill passed, Govt expects houses to be cheaper
With the Lok Sabha passing the real estate bill, the government expects home prices to come down and also give credibility to the realty sector
With the Lok Sabha giving its nod, Parliament on Tuesday passed the real estate bill which, Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, will help bring down property prices and give more credibility to functioning of the real estate sector.
The Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2016, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 10th March. 
"It is a historic moment for the country as we are fulfilling the aspirations of the people who wish to own a house, giving them the needed protection. The bill will be giving credibility to real estate sector also," said Naidu in his reply to the discussion on the bill in the Lok Sabha.
"I say you will get more investment, you will get early clearances and the property prices will come down," the minister said, asserting the speedy land clearances for the real estate projects will help in bringing down the prices of the houses.
"The builders will have to do their duty. Parliament is not interested in interfering with their activity. What you (builders) are committing, what you are promising, fulfill that. This is the only purpose of this real estate bill," Naidu said.
He stressed the bill would help to fill in the loopholes in the existing system that help builders to escape from the ambit of law without fulfilling all the claims they make in their advertisements. 
"Earlier, the rate of interest payable by consumer and builders used to vary. We found it was not correct. So from here on, the interest payable by either party, be it the consumer or builder, will be the same," the minister said.
Naidu also said that he is open to discuss it with the builders if they have any issue with bill that may hamper the sector's functioning. 
"We are not against builders. If there are problem with the builders, I am ready to discuss it with them anytime. We want builder to be partner in building a strong India," he said.
"Since land is a state issue, we seek cooperation from state's side. All approvals are to be given in 30 days," he said, insisting the central government has done its duty in providing inexpensive houses.
The minister said that he will write to all the chief ministers requesting them to give speedy clearances to the real estate projects in their states.




1 year ago

Real estate bill passed, Govt expects houses to be cheaper is good expectation but I do not understand basis of any one explain what way or what discount given to aam aadmi.

Nifty, Sensex looking weak – Tuesday closing report
Nifty has to stay above 7,400 for the uptrend to continue 
We had mentioned in Monday’s closing report that Nifty, Sensex were looking tired and that Nifty might head lower, if it were to close below 7,460. The major indices in the Indian stock markets suffered a sharp correction and closed about 1% lower than Monday’ close. The trends of the major indices in Tuesday’s trading are given in the table below:
After five months of steady rise, the CPI (consumer price index) dropped, to 5.2% in February, from 5.7% in January, making the case stronger for another repo rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). “The Budget’s focus on fiscal consolidation had already created conditions for the RBI to cut rates; we expect the policy rate to be sliced by 25-50 basis points (bps) in 2016. A benign inflation climate further allows for this; CPI, we believe, will stay soft at 5% average, unchanged from our estimate for fiscal 2016, if India is blessed with a normal monsoon. Given the excess industrial capacity, weak demand and soft commodity and crude oil prices, the impending Seventh Pay Commission payouts are unlikely to swing inflation away from the RBI’s glide path,” says CRISIL in its forecast on inflation.
The much awaited decline in CPI came on the back of a fall in food inflation in February (to 5.3% from 6.8% in January), especially in pulses, vegetables, oils and fats, and meat and fish. While the slide in CPI is a relief, sticky-inflation in some items has now come under the radar of the RBI. “Sticky items, as per our estimates, comprise nearly 20% of the CPI index. Education and health are two such where inflation has only fallen by 80 bps and 10 bps respectively in fiscal 2016 and remains high at 5.8% and 5.2%. These maintain an upward pressure on core, which rose 20 bps to 5.4% in February” points out CRISIL.
IIP (Index of industrial production) dipped for the third month in January, reporting -1.5% growth, compared to -1.2% in December. This was led by a steep fall in manufacturing activity, mainly in industrial and investment related goods. Capital goods continued to be major drag on industrial activity reflecting the investment lull in the economy, while consumer durables output was flat on-year reflecting weak demand. “In fiscal 2017, assuming a normal monsoon, an uptick in the rural economy will drive consumption. The lagged impact of interest rate reductions, salary revisions and easier monetary conditions will also support demand and boost industrial capacity utilisation. We expect GDP to rise to 7.9% in fiscal 2017 from 7.6% in fiscal 2016 and industry GDP to grow at 7.6% driven by manufacturing and construction activity,” forecasts CRISIL in its report.
In India, in particular, with hopes of a rate cut from RBI, banking and realty stocks were buoyant in Tuesday’s trading.
The yen advanced against the dollar and Asian stocks languished near the day's lows on Tuesday, after the Bank of Japan held its policy on interest rates steady as expected and offered a bleaker view of the country's economy in the face of lingering anxiety over slowing global growth. With the global economy slowing and many countries facing deflationary pressures, investors' focus remained squarely on policy decisions from the world's major central banks.
Adani Enterprises informed bourses that the company at its meeting held on 15 March 2016, has considered and declared Interim Dividend of Re 0.40 per equity share (i.e. 40%) of Re 1 each of the company for the financial year 2015-16. The company’s shares closed at Rs66.35, up 0.84% on the BSE. Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone informed BSE that the board of the company at its meeting held on 15 March 2016, has considered and declared interim dividend of Rs1.10 per equity share (i.e. 55%) of Rs2 each of the company for the financial year 2015-16. The company’s shares closed at Rs228.00, down 1.70% on the BSE.
Vakrangee has entered into a tie-up with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), India’s largest commercial enterprise for setting up Vakrangee Kendra at its retail outlets (distribution network). This tie up would increase the customer touch points at the Vakrangee Kendra and ensure a boost in its core objective i.e. Financial Inclusion, providing Digital India services, Social Inclusion, Employment Generation and Skill Development. Vakrangee shares closed at Rs219.50, down 1.41% on the BSE. IOC shares closed at Rs392.95, up 2.10% on the BSE.
Online shopping portal Infibeam will hit the capital markets on 21 March 2016 to mop-up Rs450 crore through an initial share plan, becoming the first e-commerce firm to tap the IPO (initial public offering) route. FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) company Procter and Gamble (P&G) has discontinued manufacture and sale of its popular brand 'Vicks Action 500 Extra' with immediate effect after the government banned fixed dose combination drugs. "The Government of India has prohibited the manufacture for sale, sale and distribution of fixed dose combination drugs (Paracetamol + Phenylephrine + Caffeine) with immediate effect," P & G   said in a BSE filing. It further said: "Our product 'Vicks Action 500 Extra' has the same fixed dose combination and gets covered under notification. We have discontinued the manufacture and sale of all SKUs of 'Vicks Action 500 Extra with immediate effect." The company’s shares closed at Rs6,067.85, down 0.99% on the BSE.
The top gainers and top losers of the major indices are given in the table below:
The closing values of the major Asian indices are given in the table below:


We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.

To continue

Sign Up or Sign In


To continue

Sign Up or Sign In



The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)