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News Release


Release No: 404-98
July 29, 1998


Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen today directed actions to standardize good order and discipline policies among the Services and to clarify guidance on the offense of adultery under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). These steps complete the remaining two of three initiatives he announced in June 1997.

"From the beginning of this effort, my goal has been to maintain the high standards of the U.S. Armed Forces," Cohen said. "There have been no changes in the Code, and there will be no lowering of standards. The measures I am taking today will clarify the Manual for Courts-Martial provisions relating to adultery and establish uniform Service policies and regulations governing fraternization."

"Breaches of good order and discipline in the all volunteer force are not widespread," Cohen added, "but perceived and actual inconsistencies in policies and practices addressing those breaches must be remedied. The actions I am directing today address those inconsistencies and strengthen the maintenance of good order and discipline that is essential in our military Services."

On the good order and discipline issue, Cohen directed the Service secretaries to produce draft implementing plans within 30 days and training materials within 60 days to ensure that Service policies and regulations are more uniform, clear and fair, and enhance force effectiveness and readiness. Good order and discipline issues involve interpersonal relationships both on and off duty among Service members. The training materials drafted by the Services will address how the policies will be applied and will be written in language that is understandable to all.

Cohen also approved additional guidance that makes it clear that adulterous conduct is unacceptable and remains, as it always has, an offense under the UCMJ when the conduct is prejudicial to good order and discipline or is Service-discrediting. The proposed guidance is based on military justice practice and appellate court decisions. Consistent with established practice, this guidance will be published in the Federal Register for public comment.

On June 7, 1997, Cohen announced three initiatives to ensure that military policies governing good order and discipline are fair. At the time he stated that the actions were designed to "assure that our training remains superb and that our rules are well understood at all levels of command."

The first of these initiatives was fulfilled when the vast majority of the Kassebaum Baker Panel recommendations pertaining to gender-integrated training and related issues were implemented. The second initiative was a review to determine whether current policies and practices for maintaining good order and discipline in the all volunteer force are fair, effective and clearly understood. The third initiative was a review of the clarity of published guidance on the offense of adultery under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The objective of this third review, as stated in the June 7, 1997 DoD news release, was "not to change the language of the Code but to examine the instructions for applying Article 134 as it pertains to adultery."

Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Rudy de Leon chaired a task force of senior representatives from the Services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the DoD General Counsel and DoD Inspector General that reviewed current Service policies and practices for maintaining good order and discipline. The information gathered by the task force indicated that breaches of good order and discipline in our Services are not widespread but that the Services defined, regulated and responded to unprofessional relationships between Services members differently. These differences result in the same conduct being punished by some Services and permitted under some circumstances by other Services. As the military has become smaller, and more experienced and efficient in the conduct of joint task force deployments, members of different Services are now frequently stationed together and serve side-by-side in joint operations. While some differences in Service policies are appropriate, other significant differences are antithetical to good order and discipline, create confusion, and are corrosive to morale.

Emphasis on professional relationships is warranted because even the perception that members in positions of authority may have abused that authority or made decisions based upon favoritism adversely affects morale and can degrade readiness.

Responsive to this environment, Cohen directed the military Services to produce similarly worded policies and training materials that:

  • Address how the policies are applied and enforced, and the possible consequences for noncompliance in language that is clearly understandable to all;
  • Prohibit personal relationships such as dating, sharing living accommodations, engaging in intimate or sexual relations, business enterprises, commercial solicitations, gambling, and borrowing between officer and enlisted personnel, regardless of the member¬ís Service. This change will not affect existing marriages;
  • Prohibit personal relationships between recruiter and recruit; and
  • During Initial Entry Training, prohibit instructors and staff from having personal relationships with students and trainees.

Professional interaction among and between officers and enlisted members is essential to the maintenance of morale, unit cohesion, and the free and open communications between superiors and subordinates. Likewise, emphasis will continue on proper training and leadership by example as the best way to curtail inappropriate or unprofessional relationships. Should inappropriate relationships occur, commanders must carefully consider all facts and circumstances in reaching a disposition that is warranted, appropriate, and fair, and is addressed at the lowest appropriate level, in accordance with the general policy of the Manual for Courts-Martial for all offenses.

Regarding the third initiative, the existing definition and elements of proof of the offense of adultery remain unchanged. Those three elements of proof are that:

  • the accused wrongfully had sexual intercourse with a certain person;
  • at the time, the accused or the other person was married to someone else; and
  • under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

Cohen approved for publication in the Federal Register (and a follow on 75 day period of public comment) proposed additional guidance to assist commanders and other military personnel to better understand when conduct is prejudicial to good order and discipline or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces. The proposed guidance makes it clear that adulterous conduct is unacceptable and remains an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The proposed guidance:

  • provides commanders a list of non-exclusive clarifying factors to assist them in determining whether conduct establishes the elements of proof for the offense of adultery. The list of factors for consideration is not intended to be all-inclusive or to indicate that one factor should necessarily be given weight above the others.
  • emphasizes the long-standing military justice policy that commanders dispose of all offenses under the Code, including adultery, at the lowest appropriate level.
  • maintains the commander¬ís discretion to apply the appropriate response from a wide range of potential corrective actions. The response will continue to range from counseling and administrative options to non-judicial punishment and courts-martial depending upon the facts and their impact on unit mission, morale, discipline and cohesion.


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