Uniform Code of Military Justice: Time for Change

  • Colonel Steven B. Weir

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) needs to be changed and modified in several areas. The sexual assault crisis has caused Congress to review the court-martial process and as a result several pieces of legislation have been proposed. The legislation is focused primary on sexual assault cases. This paper proposes sweeping changes that do not rely on the type of offense to be prosecuted. All victims should be treated equally and fairly regardless of the nature of the offense. The time has come to eliminate commanders and the convening authority from the court-martial process. The decision to send an accused to a court-martial should rest with the Staff Judge Advocate. The Staff Judge Advocate has the legal skills, training, and experience to determine what cases should result in trial by courts-martial. The guilty plea process should be completely overhauled. The Staff Judge Advocate and the accused with his defense counsel can negotiate a fair and just sentence. The military judge should have no role in the sentencing process. These changes and the others will restore faith in the military justice system. Most importantly commanders will not lose their ability to instill good order and discipline.