06 July 2009

Senate's version of NDAA calls on Defense IG oversight on delays in Navy court-martial appeals

The U.S. Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, for FY 2010, S. 1390, was previously discussed here. The bill, which is now available on Thomas, can be found here. Since the bill became availabe on Thomas, I've finally had some time to peruse the Senate's version. If this version becomes law, the Inspector General of the Department of Defense would have oversight of post-trial delays in Navy and Marine Corps appeals of courts-martial. (The House version of the NDAA FY 2010, which does not contain any language for IG oversight, can be found here.) Over the years the Department of Navy has been plagued with long appellate delays. I certainly remember those delays when I was on active duty and on appellate leave in 1993-94. Many different Navy Judge Advocates General have tried to remedy the systemic delays but none have been entirely successful. A Code Committee report from 2006 shows that a new case tracking system was implemented by the Navy JAG's Code 46. That report can be found here.

A 2 July 2009 Senate report titled "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010", in a section called "Items of Special Interest" indicates that the Senate Armed Services Committee, also known as SASC, "believes action is long overdue to analyze and correct longstanding problems with post-trial processes for preparation of records of court-martial and for appellate review of courts-martial convictions within the Department of the Navy."

Earlier this year the San Diego Union Tribune reported here on the case of Marine Corps Sergeant Brian Foster who was imprisoned for nearly a decade before his case was actually reviewed by a military appellate court and reversed. The Senate report mentions the Foster case as well as other cases. In April, a website called Leatherneck, an online Marine Corps community for Marines and veterans, posted an article here. The article noted that "Sgt. Brian Foster was illegally deprived of the constitutional rights he willingly swore to uphold."

If the Senate's version of the NDAA becomes law, the IG's review is due to be provided to the Secretary of the Navy no later than 1 January 2010. After the IG completes its report, the Secretary of the Navy has until 1 March 2010 to furnish a written report to both SASC and the House Armed Services Committee.

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