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
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 members
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
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 commanders 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.