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DoD Announces Good Order, Discipline Changes

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 31, 1998 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen directed the services to standardize good order and discipline policies among the services. He also clarified guidance intended to assist commanders as they contemplate charging service members with adultery.

Cohen's order will standardize fraternization policies among the services. Rudy de Leon, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said during a Pentagon news conference July 29 that the Army will have to change its more lenient fraternization policy to get in line with the other services.

Another change is to include a list of factors in the Manual for Courts-Martial that commanders should consider before charging service members with adultery.

The services have 30 days to present Cohen with draft implementation plans and 60 days to prepare training materials for changes to standardize the fraternization policies.

"We believe this will make policies more uniform, clear and fair," said de Leon, who headed the committee looking at the policies. "We believe this will enhance force effectiveness and readiness."

The officials stressed the Uniform Code of Military Justice will not change; however, the courts-martial manual will receive some changes.

"This does not indicate any lowering of standards," said de Leon. "The additional guidance makes it clear that adulterous conduct is unacceptable and remains an offense under the UCMJ."

Director of the Joint Staff Vice Adm. Dennis Blair echoed these sentiments. "There is no change in the standard, but [commanders have] a lot of help in applying the standard," he said.

Adultery and fraternization are covered by Article 134 of the UCMJ -- the General Article. It covers "all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and all crimes and offenses not capital ."

The briefers said breaches of good order and discipline are not widespread.

Contrary to news reports, the policy changes do not reduce the maximum sentence for adultery. It remains confinement for one year, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge. The maximum sentence for fraternization also remains the same: confinement for two years, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and dismissal.

A DoD background paper stressed these were the maximum sentences. Of all courts-martial for adultery in the last five years, none resulted in a dishonorable discharge, officials said.

Listing the factors commanders should consider is not intended to take away any of their discretion. "We want to ensure all concerned clearly understand the policy and the consequences for noncompliance," said DoD General Counsel Judith Miller. She said changes to the Manual for Courts- Martial will be published in the Federal Register and there will be a 75-day public comment period. If approved, President Clinton will sign an executive order to incorporate the changes in the manual.

Fraternization policy changes will cover most aspects of personal relationships between officer and enlisted personnel. These include dating, sharing living accommodations, engaging in intimate relations, business enterprises, commercial solicitations, gambling and borrowing.

The fraternization policy will also include what are now separate policies addressing relationships between recruiters and recruits, and between trainers and staff and trainees.

Other changes will promote standardization among the services. De Leon and Blair noted that more and more service members are serving in joint commands. "Service members are serving side-by-side with members from other services," de Leon said. "The services interpret and respond to fraternization differently. These differences could result in the same conduct being punished by one service and allowed in another." He said the changes will eliminate this problem.

Secretary Cohen announced three initiatives in June 1997 to ensure military policies governing good order and discipline are fair. The first was fulfilled when DoD implemented most recommendations from the December 1996 Kassebaum Baker panel report on gender-integrated training. The second initiative dealt with making sure good order and discipline policies were fair, effective and clearly understood. The third was to review the clarity of published guidance on the offense of adultery under the UCMJ.

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