Numbers Don’t Lie

After Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and her supporters pushed to reform the way the military prosecutes sexual assault cases, Air Force officials pulled every USAF court-martial case for a three-year period to see exactly how often a command authority overturned a conviction, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. The answer is not very often, said Welsh during a speech in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. USAF convened approximately 2,411 courts-martial during that time period. Of those, there were 25 instances where the commander did not agree with the judge advocate general in the case’s disposition. In 13 of those 25 cases, the JAG asked a higher-level commander for review, and the higher-level commander accepted the JAG’s recommendation, Welsh said. Disagreement remained between the commander and the JAG in 12 of the 2,411 cases, and only one of those cases was a “sexually-related case,” he said. “The idea that the commander is not trained and therefore does not take the right action is an interesting discussion, but it’s not true. It just doesn’t happen,” Welsh said. Although he disagreed with the Gillibrand on this point, Welsh said USAF is working with Congress on possible changes to the military justice system. He also credited Congress with coming up with the idea of the special victims counsel, which was recently recognized by the Department of Justice for its work with military sexual assault victims.