Hagel Recommending UCMJ Changes

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Monday that he’s directed the Pentagon to prepare legislation for Congress that would modify Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He wants the code amended so that convening authorities could no longer change the findings of a court-martial for major offenses like sexual assault. He also wants Article 60 modified so that the convening authority would have to explain in writing any changes made to court-martial sentences. “These changes, if enacted by Congress, would help ensure that our military justice system works fairly, ensures due process, and is accountable,” reads Hagel’s April 8 statement. His action came after the Pentagon’s general counsel completed a review of Article 60 that Hagel ordered last month after Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, 3rd Air Force commander, overturned the sexual assault conviction of an Air Force colonel at Aviano AB, Italy. Some lawmakers have condemned Franklin’s action, but there has been no public pronouncement from Hagel or the Air Force leadership thus far that Franklin’s justification for dismissing the conviction was flawed. Hagel also said he is reviewing other options and actions to strengthen sexual-assault prevention and response efforts, and would announce his decisions soon. (For more background, see Under Fire.)