On 28 January 2008, the President signed into law Public Law No. 110-181, one provision of which authorized three-star status for the Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. In that legislation’s wake, some legal maneuvering arose over what had to happen before the Judge Advocates General pinned on their third star, as we discussed here and here. Finally, on 11 December 2008, the last of DOD’s two-star Judge Advocates General — Major General Black — was promoted to lieutenant general.

Congress’s insistence that the Judge Advocates General have three-star status had nothing to do with military justice. Rather, as discussed in this column by Professor Vic Hansen, the change arose to correct a perceived imbalance between the authority of the Judge Advocates General and civilian politically appointees on issues such as detention policy, military commission rules, limits on interrogations, and Geneva Convention applicability. But there was no tension between the Judge Advocates General and civilian political appointees regarding military justice because that system is largely within the purview of the former.

Nevertheless, the elevation of the Judge Advocates General to three-star status will no doubt produce some collateral consequences for military justice. Presumably the Judge Advocates General will now win some small battles over resources and personnel that they might have lost when they sported only two stars on their collars. This is likely to arise not because they can big foot someone as a three star whom they couldn’t as a two star, but rather because they will have greater access to information and decision makers as a consequence of being invited to three-star-minimum meetings and receiving other forms of enhanced bureaucratic entrée.

We’ll look for signs of increased Judge Advocate General influence in 2009.

19 Responses to “Top 10 military justice stories of 2008 — #7: A third star for the Judge Advocates General”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Worst grade inflation ever. This is the number one horror story of the military justice year. A 3 star in command of 300 troops. Might as well make all battalion commanders 3 stars as well. Silly, silly, silly.

    The real question is whether the services need a JAG corps anymore. Why not contract the function out to civilian lawyers, who would not be burdened with allegiance to the command structure?

  2. Anonymous says:

    THe JAG is not in command of anything. I guess that underscores your misunderstanding of the situation.

  3. Dwight Sullivan says:

    1040 Anon, does the Judge Advocate General command OJAG (or, as the Army would say, OTJAG)?

    I believe that the ACMC commands precisely no one and he’s a four star. As 1040 Anon suggests, rank isn’t always about command authority.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The JAG does not “command” anything. In the Navy, the Deputy JAG is also Commander, Naval Legal Service Command. He is in command of NLSOs/RLSOs and the personnel under that chain of command. While the Navy JAG is responsible for the OJAG organization he does not command it in the same sense that one commands a ship or one commands a regiment, etc. Similarly, the Chief of Chaplains is not “in command” of all the chaplains, the Chief of the Nurse Corps is not in command of the nurses, etc. Anon 10:14 seems to think that there should be no staff flag officers. Having had some experience in DC and with the line community the delta between 2 and 3 stars is huge and I assume the line community will give as much deference now to the various JAG Corps as the general counsel will.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The better question is why haven’t the DJAGs been promoted to JAG after 2 years as per normal? I’ll let you all speculate as to the reason.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Don’t forget Colonel Lindsey Graham who is still bucking for a Star or 2….

  7. Anonymous says:

    In the Navy the DJAGs have been promoted recently. RADM LeGrand was the last one who was not promoted. Promotion from DJAG to JAG is not an automatic event. Is it different in other services?

  8. Anonymous says:

    But…will the quality of the legal services delivered to the fleet or the qulaity of the legal advice delivered to the commander increase? If not, then it’s pointless, right?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Yes, they will.

  10. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    CAAFlog wrote:

    But there was no tension between the Judge Advocates General and civilian political appointees regarding military justice because that system is largely within the purview of the former.
    While not in the know on this subject, I beg to differ. One of the front and center arguments was the applicability of MilJus to these POWs, or um detainees, or unlawful something or others, now housed at Gitmo. I think the reach and use of MilJus in these situations was a primary reason to put the uniformed lawyers’ opinions ahead of the civilians with no MilJus experience–alas that rationale did not win out, though is now part of the reason the 3 wisemen got their stars.

  11. Dew_Process says:

    No Man – this “conflict” goes back to when Cheney was SecDef and more recently resurrected by John Yoo, of torture central. There’s been “tension” all around since then, but as you note, the thing came to a head when the TJAGs revolted on GTMO and the Geneva Conventions.

    There’s a good background piece by Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe, entitled “Control Sought on Military Lawyers,” dated 15 DEC 07. I tried posting the link but couldn’t, sorry.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I just saw the documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side.” The theme was that adventurous memo writing, hypothesis testing, and intentional ambiguity led to abuses – more than actual “decisions.” The unwritten moral of the piece was that policy punishments do not rise above the 0-3 level.

  13. Anonymous says:

    2 stars, 3 stars, 4 stars a bunch. Do you really think the increased number of stars will cause the JAGs to voice disagreement on those high viz policy issues unless or until they have the appropriate cover? Think Hutson would have voiced his apparent disagreement with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on active duty and not waited for retirement and Deanship at a Law School if he had the third star?

    The only reason the JAGs wrote their joint memo was because they had Mora and other high ranking DoJ attorneys already voicing disagreement. Even with a third star they would not have been the ones leading the dissent against Rumsfeld, Cheney and others.

    Also, why have the JAGs stayed longer than their two years after picking up the third star?

  14. Anonymous says:

    There is no statutory retirement requirement for the JAGs. They don’t have to retire in 2 years. Plus, when they are promoted into a new grade they have a time in grade requirement for retirement at that paygrade. Why the push to send the JAGs packing?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Well, How does the community benefit from them staying longer? Great we have the 3rd star. But why not promoted the DJAGs and then promote some O-6 and keep the promotion flow moving? You said there is a time in paygrade to retire at that paygrade, but who does that benefit?

  16. Dew_Process says:

    Don’t know about the other Services, but the AF – with one notable exception – has for “continuity” purposes traditionally nominated the DTJAG to be the next TJAG, and unless they want to retire or the CoS “wants” them retired, they pull a double, 2 year tour.

    But for “grade inflation,” look to the Medical Corps, or the CMCR, where the CJ is appointed as a 2 Star….

  17. Anonymous says:

    Gee….Tough question, Why have the JAGs stayed longer than the traditional two years?

    Er, to pick up the pay and perqs that come with a promotion to a third star, perhaps? Say it ain’t so.

    The former Army TJAG (who was largely regarded as an officious tool) tried to stick around as long as he possibly could to make LGEN.

    The real fight in all this was the line communities having to give up a three star billet to make room for a JAG position (statutory limitations on 3 and 4 stars). Great way to make friends and influence people.

    This won’t change a thing. All window dressing and backslapping for happening to be on the right side of a publicly popular decision regarding detainees. The parties involved will claim moral courage etc., but it was only Mora that really exemplified that type of courage in going public on this. The just piled on as a way of getting back at Haynes and company.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Anon 1248, nicely said.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Anon 1248 – I believe the statute promoting the JAGs specifically states that these 3-stars do not count against the line communities total. Was that language dropped from the final statute?