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As suggestions to modify the practice of the U.S. military justice system return to the fore of American political discourse, the perennial proposal to divest commanders of authority to convene courts-martial to adjudicate allegations of sexual assault is once again at the center of the debate. While reformists are adamant that the suggested revision would support efforts to end what has been characterized as an “epidemic of rape” in the U.S. military, the precise connection between the “reform” and the desired improved outcomes remains tenuous. An assessment of jurisdictions that have already divested commanders of such authority could provide persuasive support to the reformist assertion that the United States could expect improved performance – if the assessment reveals improved performance in other jurisdictions.

This essay conducts a comparative quantitative analysis of four jurisdictions – Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, and Canada – to determine whether vesting court-martial convening authority in lawyers rather than commanders has resulted in improved performance in selected criteria in relation to the issue of sexual assault in the military. The comparative quantitative analysis conducted in this essay indicates that there is no correlative relationship between the “reform” and the improved performance reformists hope to achieve, at least in the context of the jurisdictions examined. This lack of a demonstrated correlative relationship in other jurisdictions creates reason to doubt whether divesting commanders of the authority to convene courts-martial to adjudicate allegations of sexual assault would lead to improved performance related to sexual assault in the U.S. military.

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Sexual assault in the military, Courts martial