MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
On Dec. 26, 2013, President Barrack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act. Among other things, the act altered the Uniform Code of Military Justice in a few ways. The changes effected articles 32, 60, 120 and 125.
The changes to these articles varied in magnitude. While articles 120 and 125 were simple changes, articles 32 and 60 were drastically changed.
Articles 120 and 125 were made to have a minimum punishment of a dishonorable discharge, where before the punishment could range from none to very severe.
Article 32, which deals in the proceedings of a court martial, originally said investigating officers could be any officer. Now, according to the NDAA, they must be judge advocates.
The change won’t affect the Marine Corps much as the Corps has already implemented the changes before congress voted on the bill.
“We saw what was coming and decided to stay one step ahead,” said Maj. Pete Houtz, a judge advocate for Marine Corps Base Quantico.
“The only thing we have changed is how we select judge advocates to be investigating officers,” said Houtz. “Our selection process focuses on putting experienced judge advocates in the investigating officer position, which helps us have the best possible candidate for the job.”
Another change was the implementation of a Special Victims Counsel in the case of a sexual assault allegation. The SVC is obligated to keep the alleged victim up to date on the status of the court proceedings. Also, the SVC will represent the alleged victim during the proceedings.
The major change in article 60 deals with the convening authority. The convening authority is the individual who appoints officers to play certain roles in a court martial. In the past the convening authority had the power to overturn a sentence in a hearing. That power has now been limited to certain instances when the sentence does not contain a discharge and is less than six months confinement. They cannot change any findings in a sexual assault case.
Although these changes will greatly affect the way the military conducts courts martial, the Marines have already adapted and overcome.