St. Mary's Law Journal
The 2016 amendments to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”) amounted to a sea change in American military justice. The Military Justice Act of 2016—a major reform of the Uniform Code of Military Justice—is set out in Division E of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, and was signed into law by the President on December 23, 2016. Most of the amendments to the UCMJ addressed in this article will not become effective for some time—perhaps not until January 1, 2019 and in the interim, the current provisions of the UCMJ will continue to apply. Overall, this article addresses the amendments effected by the Military Justice Act of 2016.
Despite the large number of changes to the military justice system in the 2016 amendments to the UCMJ, the system remains separate with separate crimes and procedures. Although the 2016 amendments effected a sea change in military justice, they reflect the timeless principle that there has always been change in the system. The question is not whether there should be change in the UCMJ. The questions instead are: When will the changes be made and how significant will they be? Throughout its massive report, the Military Justice Review Group repeated emphasized that the amendments were designed to promote justice and good order and discipline, in that order. While it could be argued that it would be more appropriate to list the good order and discipline component first, in the end, the real test for the 2016 amendments will be how the military leadership implements the amendments, and the implementing amendments to the Manual for Courts-Martial, to the end that both justice and discipline will be preserved and furthered.
David A. Schlueter, Reforming Military Justice: An Analysis of the Military Justice Act of 2016, 49 St. Mary’s L.J. 1 (2017).