As news reports continue to reveal that military veterans, military retirees and possibly active-duty personnel participated in last week’s attacks on Capitol Hill, the secretary of defense is now faced with determining how the military will provide the most just and fair accountability. The secretary should appoint a “consolidated disposition authority,” or CDA, with one senior commander to handle all allegations of misconduct by all military personnel associated with the Jan. 6th violence.
Navy rioters, if there are any, should not receive more favorable (0r harsher) treatment than those in the Army—yet that could happen if the secretary does not quickly establish a uniform process for handling all similar cases. While the military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice provides a standard set of criminal offenses and procedures for trial by court-martial, there is almost plenary discretion vested in non-lawyer military commanders across the military branches to decide whom to court-martial, and for what, with inadequate guidance as to both.
This results in unjustifiable variances regarding how the services handle certain crimes—court-martialed in one for marijuana, lesser nonjudicial disciplinary action in another for the same offense. Such potential differential treatment of similar conduct cannot occur with the crimes of last week.