The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Military justice is in need of much reform

An aerial view of the Pentagon in 2013.
An aerial view of the Pentagon in 2013. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The April 29 editorial “A reform the military needs” correctly highlighted the injustice of keeping power in the hands of military-convening authorities when considering military sexual assault cases. Though generals take a mini-course in legal requirements, no general should be acting as a “convening authority” because the vast majority has a vested interest in keeping their command intact. They shouldn’t be involved in the administration of justice at all. 

I interviewed 60 active-duty and veteran Marines to investigate a military justice case known as the MARSOC 3. Far-removed commanders lack the legal expertise to make competent decisions regarding service members’ futures — and justice. It’s the equivalent of your corporate boss deciding whether you should go to prison. It made sense with King George III, but it shouldn’t fly in the 21st century. Unlawful command influence abounds. 

Don’t limit reform to military sexual crimes, as necessary as it is. The entire military justice system is due for a serious makeover.

Kelsey Baker, Tulsa

The writer is a former Marine officer and former uniformed victim advocate.

Let’s hope prosecutors take over the investigation of sexual assaults by military members. Base commanders are simply too invested institutionally to be impartial. The same reasoning suggests college deans should stand down and let local police and prosecutors investigate similar crimes on their campuses. And given that district attorneys work hand in glove with their local police, charges of police misconduct should be the purview of independent prosecutors, preferably nonlocal.  Institutions are first and foremost self-protecting entities, as the history of clerical abuse sadly demonstrates.

Martin Lawson, Fort Valley, Va.

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