Protect Our Defenders News Blog


Former Defense Official, Marine Colonel calls for passage of Gillibrand military justice bill

Paul McHale is a former member of Congress (1993-99), former assistant secretary of defense (2003-09), and a retired Marine colonel with 33 years of active and reserve service. He wrote a piece for in support of the Military Justice Improvement Act.

Majority Leader Harry Reid recently announced that within the next few weeks, the Senate will vote on the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). This legislation, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), already has the public support of more than half the Senate, and it is closing in on the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. If enacted, it will be the most significant military justice reform in many decades. Basic principles of sound troop leadership and due process argue strongly for passage.

To begin, a little history. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) currently entrusts to commanding officers the decision whether to prosecute cases of alleged sexual assault. Gillibrand’s legislation was motivated by an obvious and recurring failure of that status quo. Over the past several decades, it has become increasingly clear that some commanders are unable – in more than a few cases, unwilling – to make these decisions ethically and responsibly.

A recent Associated Press analysis described the current prosecutorial system as “chaotic.” If anything, that description is charitable.

Read more here.