Subcommittee Chairs Demand Answers from DOD on Racial Disparities in Military Justice System
Washington, D.C. (Sep. 3, 2020)—Today, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, issued the following statement demanding the Department of Defense (DOD) provide information and documents in response to their June 15, 2020, request for information about how DOD is working to address racial disparities in the U.S. Military Justice System:
“While we appreciate Secretary Esper has announced steps to address racial inequalities across the Department of Defense, it is disappointing that the Department and military services have not provided our Committee with basic answers to questions about the steps they are taking to address significant and disturbing disparities within the U.S. military justice system as required by last year’s National Defense Authorization Act,” the Chairs said. “We urge Secretary Esper to respond to our requests so that we can conduct needed oversight to ensure the application of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is equitable for all servicemembers.”
On June 15, 2020, Chairman Lynch and Chairman Raskin sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and the Secretaries for the Army, Navy, and Air Force requesting information by June 26, 2020, about how DOD and the military service branches are addressing racial disparities within the military justice system.
On June 26, DOD told the Subcommittees it would provide the requested documents and information by August 28, 2020. To date, DOD has not provided any documents or information responsive to this request.
In May 2019, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that African American servicemembers are between 1.6 and 2.1 times more likely to be the subjects of recorded investigations across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and the Air Force. GAO also found that DOD “has not comprehensively evaluated the causes” of disparities in the military justice system. As a result, DOD may not be fully aware of certain racial and ethnic disparities within its ranks and is unable to address them.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA) directed the Secretary of Defense to require each service branch to record demographic information about victims and the accused for each court-martial action, and to include this information in the service’s annual military justice report. The NDAA also required the Secretary of Defense to establish criteria to determine whether certain racial disparities may exist in the military justice system, and required the Secretary to “conduct an evaluation to identify the causes of any racial, ethnic, or gender disparities identified in the military justice system” and “take steps to address the causes of any such disparities, as appropriate.” Former Chairman Elijah E. Cummings advocated strongly for the inclusion of these provisions in an amendment to the NDAA.