Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the Military Justice Act of 2016 instated the most reform to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Manual for Courts-Martial in decades, modernizing dated aspects of the military justice system while also providing transparency.
“The Military Justice Act represents the most significant change to the military justice system since the Military Justice Act of 1983. Over the past year, the Air Force JAG Corps has engaged in a robust training effort to educate every total force judge advocate and paralegal on the changes contained in the Act,” said Lt. Gen. Jeff Rockwell, Air Force Judge Advocate General.
“In addition to training our Corps, our military justice experts are building tools and updating publications. Installation commanders, convening authorities, chief master sergeants and first sergeants will continue to receive military justice training in formal courses and from their local installation legal offices," Rockwell added. "Our focus is to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for all Airmen.”
The Act is the result of U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, former 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who proposed a systemic review of the UCMJ and MCM to the Secretary of Defense in 2013, advocating that changes need to be implemented to ensure military laws and regulations reflect today’s environment.
Among its major reforms, the Military Justice Act will establish fixed numbers of members for courts-martial, expand judge-alone sentencing, expand the opportunity for convicted service members to appeal their convictions and require most court-martial documents be made publicly accessible under a system similar to those used in civilian criminal justice systems.
Additionally, the Act adds some new offenses such as retaliation against a person for reporting or planning to report a crime, fraudulent use of credit cards and debit cards and sexual activity between military members in a position of trust and specially protected junior members. While these offenses were prohibited in the past, they are now specifically enumerated crimes under the UCMJ.
The UCMJ’s is Chapter 47, Title 10, United States Code and can only be changed by legislation while the MCM is issued by the president as an Executive Order. The Act was enacted by Congress and signed by former President Obama in 2016.