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Immediate Release

Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on the Offices of Special Trial Counsel

I am pleased to announce that the four Offices of Special Trial Counsel—within the Army, the Department of the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps—have reached full operational capability. With this milestone, prosecutorial discretion for 13 serious criminal offenses will be shifted away from commanders to specially trained and independent judge advocates who reside within the Offices of Special Trial Counsel and report directly to the Secretaries of the Military Departments. 

This landmark change to the U.S. military justice system will significantly strengthen the independent prosecution of sexual assault and other serious criminal offenses in the Department of Defense. It is the most important reform to our military justice system since the creation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1950. This reform aims to help strengthen accountability and increase all of our service members’ trust in the fairness and integrity of the military justice system. I am grateful to all those whose hard work, determination, and resilience helped us to reach this day. 

The men and women of the United States military selflessly step up to defend our country, and we have a solemn duty to take the best possible care of them. Today’s milestone will help modernize the military justice system and is a critical step in ensuring our service members’ access to fair and impartial justice.