Leadership Open to Change

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said he is open to having commanders no longer serve as the convening authority for prosecuting sex crimes in the military—a move some lawmakers are demanding following a series of high-profile sexual misconduct cases in the ranks, reported Stars and Stripes. Welsh told reporters on May 17 that he is willing to consider placing that authority into the hands of specifically trained military prosecutors instead, according to the newspaper. “All options should be on the table” and “I personally am open” to that proposal, he said. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, commanders initiate courts-martial against alleged attackers; opponents of that set-up argue it discourages victims from stepping forward. Asked during a separate briefing on May 17 about changing the authority, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, “We’re looking at everything. And we are listening to victims carefully, closely.” Earlier this month, Welsh told lawmakers he supported maintaining commanders as the convening authority for courts-martial, but was open to revising the part of the UCMJ that gives them the power to overturn convictions for major offenses. (Hagel-Dempsey transcript) (See also Hagel Recommending UCMJ Changes.)