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January 21, 2022

How Changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice will Affect Sexual Assault

S.1605, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22 NDAA), was signed into law in late December. Most notably, this law will transform how serious cases, including sex crimes are handled in the military, with sweeping policy reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Sexual harassment will now be a stand alone crime under the UCMJ. An independent Office of the Special Trial Counsel will be created for each of the services to make all prosecution decisions regarding eleven of the most serious crimes in the military, including murder and all sexual assault crimes.  The NDAA removed authority to make decisions regarding these eleven “covered offenses” from commanders. In FY18, approximately 20,500 service members were sexually assaulted; 76.1% of those victims did not report, and 1 out of 3 who did not report feared the “process would be unfair, or nothing would be done.”  This law aims to combat this issue and other problems in the handling of serious crimes in the military.