I don't think the Commander or the COC should be removed from the process, nor do I think the process should be handed over entirely to civilians.
I think that the system that exists now should be added to, not removed, and that civilians should be added in to the mix, not replace military authorities.
The CO should remain the initial deciding authority, but I don't think (s)he should have the final word.
As it is currently the buck stops at the CO's desk.
That should be changed a bit.
I believe that all the CO's decisions in relation to sexual assault charges should be reviewed by a Committee of senior officers and Department of Defense civilians. Both the CO and the Committee should be privy to all the same evidence, and both should be making their determinations to charge/prosecute or dismiss based on that evidence.
In cases where the evidence presented clearly supports the CO's determination (either to dismiss or to prosecute) then there won't be an issue.
In cases where the Committee sees something different than the CO does it doesn't necessarily have to be an issue either, it can simply be a matter of erring on the side of caution when the evidence doesn't support a clear-cut conclusion and letting a Court Martial make the final decision (which is the conclusion COs should be reaching now but apparently aren't).
Now, if the CO makes an egregious error in judgement, or demonstrates a history of making small errors in judgement, then that's something that needs to be taken up by that CO's COC.
But on the face of it I don't think we'll see that kind of situation arising all too frequently under my proposed system even if it is happening now.
Military officers, by and large, are nothing if not masters of the art of self-career preservation.
If they know that there is going to be a committee back-stopping their decisions in respect to sexual assault I think the overwhelming majority will err on the side of caution.
As far as the civilians who will be involved, I think they all need to be DOD civilian employees and I'd prefer to see them all having some experience with the UCMJ. I think former JAG officers would be ideal, as would retired senior officers and NCOs.
I agree with APDST that, by-and-large, fresh-off-the-block civilians aren't qualified to, nor do they deserve to, serve in any capacity overlooking the general day-to-day operation of our military. Likewise, we don't need professional civil rights activists getting themselves involved and turning this into a circus.
But at the same time I think bringing in a set of fresh eyes that is more familiar with judicial matters than most COs likely are and that is independent from any kind of military COC could add value.
“Now it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the Aryan brown,
For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear: “A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.”
"He who does not think himself worth saving from poverty and ignorance by his own efforts, will hardly be thought worth the efforts of anybody else." -- Frederick Douglass, Self-Made Men (1872)
"The military's sexual assault problem has reached epidemic levels. Some 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted in 2012, according to a report released this summer by the Department of Defense (DOD)—up from 19,000 in 2010. This week, the Senate will begin consideration of legislation to curb the crisis. But a battle has emerged over how to solve the problem."
The Fight Over How to Stop Military Sexual Assault, Explained | Mother Jones
Sexual assault is sexual assault whether in uniform or not.
When I was in the navy, I worked on electronic systems of F-18s. The vast majority of the time when a problem came up, we could solve it no problem, usually within minutes. However, a few times a year we would have something that was just a royal bitch. Intermittent gripes that only happened when the plane was in the air and we could not duplicate, and that everything we tried to do failed to solve the problem. This would happen maybe a dozen times a year. When it did we called in a civilian contractor. He was a specialist in 18 electronics, and worked with all the squadrons on base, getting called in on all the hard issues. More often than not, he had seen the gripe before and would tell us just what we needed to do. If not, he knew how others had solved similar problems. My suggested observer would be something like this guy. He would work with sexual assault cases and be an expert. He would be a resource for the command. He would know best practices, he would have lots of experience, he would be a tool to help insure the command got it right. And he would gather data on how the issue was handled, whether it was handled appropriately, what the command did wrong and things that further training at the command level was needed.
Sexual assualt in the military is a military issue. Ultimately, each case needs to be decided by the military. That does not mean that no oversite is needed, and it does not mean that expert help is not a positive. Every one wants it a nice, clear cut, the militayr can do it, or the military needs to be removed. I think both go too far, and the military should handle it, with civilian help and oversite.