Our #1 Military Justice Story of 2016 is the Military Justice Act of 2016, passed as Division E of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 and signed into law by President Obama on December 23, 2016.

A bookmarked PDF of the MJA is available here.

The Act was the product of the Military Justice Review Group, an internal DoD working group created by the Secretary of Defense to conduct a comprehensive review of the UCMJ. As an internal group the MJRG’s meetings and deliberations were closed to the public, and there was little subsequent public debate about the group’s 1,302 page report and legislative proposal. The House and Senate adopted the MJRG’s legislative proposal in differing degrees, and the final legislation was worked out in conference committee. It’s not everything the DoD wanted, but it’s pretty close, and it’s the most significant changes to the UCMJ since the Military Justice Act of 1983.

The changes won’t take effect until the President establishes an effective date that need only be sometime before January 1, 2019 (1st day of the 1st month two years after enactment). Yet while Congress gave the President up to two years to make the Act effective, it only allowed one year for revision of the Manual for Courts-Martial (perhaps in recognition of the fact that the White House has been painfully slow to act on draft executive orders forwarded by the Joint Service Committee).

Of course we’ll analyze the MJA in 2017, and we’ll keep reporting on developments in military justice for the eleventh year. Stay tuned.

One Response to “Top Ten Military Justice Stories of 2016 – #1: The Military Justice Act of 2016”

  1. Vulture says:

    Just a note on these changes.  Last year’s list included an entry for a non-story that the military justice system did not collapse.  Here now, a year later, these changes come along.  They are largely non-predicated (by that I mean that not much has happened in the way of Congressional debate) and not in the consciousness of the public eye.  But they are long in coming and a surprise to no one.  Fred Borshe’s piece in Army Lawyer of General Crowder being “The greatest OTJAG ever” while citing the seamy side of permanent Colonel Ansell is a none-too discrete poke to the Corps to keep its head down.
    For instance: the 3/4 requirement to convict is only a 9% increase in the margin of certainty on a question of fact.  However, by increasing the minimum of members from 5 to 8, the Panel is subject to a 37% increase in stratification (or caste if I may be so bold) in the decider of those facts.  Whatever benefit to the Accused these changes might entail, they suffer attenuation.
    Rust never sleeps.