Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said there may be public confusion about the military’s reporting process. Referring to media reports that there is only one way to report sexual assault, the Michigan Democrat asked each of the military heads at a hearing if there currently are multiple options in addition to notifying a unit commander. They replied yes.
They also told the committee that instances of commanders ignoring their judge advocate generals’ advice in sexual assault cases are extremely rare.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Raymond Odierno, chief of staff of the Army; Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations; Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps; Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the Air Force, and Adm. Robert Papp Jr., commandant of the Coast Guard, each acknowledged that sexual assault is a serious problem but one that commanders are equipped to handle.
A second panel of military commanders, convened after the military chiefs, followed suit with their superiors, saying not only would removing commanders from the investigative process undermine their troops’ trust in them, but it would also deny them the effective tool of nonjudicial punishment, known as Article 15.
Commanders also must be able to decide whether an allegation should be investigated, or the subject of a court-martial, they said.
The commanders’ ability to convene a court-martial acts as a deterrent, and Marine Col. Tracy King, commander of the Combat Logistics Regiment 15, said he suspected that an “overwhelming” number of Marines would take their chances that an independent prosecutor might be more lenient.
“If you remove my authority to convene a court-martial, the majority of Marines will refuse (nonjudicial punishment),” King said.
Full article: Military chiefs oppose removing commanders from sexual assault probes (CNN)