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Lawmakers: Change UCMJ, cut programs

Jul. 11, 2013 - 08:17PM   |  
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Lawmakers from the House and Senate have placed strong recommendations and demands on Army leadership in separate versions of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.

Lawmakers from the House and Senate have placed strong recommendations and demands on Army leadership in separate versions of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.

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Lawmakers from the House and Senate have placed strong recommendations and demands on Army leadership in separate versions of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.

Atop the list is the congressional crackdown on sexual assault. For example:

■Lawmakers want an end to the five-year statute of limitations on trial by court-martial for sex-related crimes. They also are calling for a review of all separations since Jan. 1, 2002, in which there was an unrestricted report of sexual assault. Officials want to know whether separations were retaliatory or involved a personality or adjustment disorder.

■Commands are being held to higher accountability. Organizational climate assessments will continue, and Congress is requiring each service secretary to verify they are done correctly.

■Rules covering the accused and the convicted will be tightened. Anyone accused of a sexual assault or related offense will face temporary administrative reassignment or removal. The Senate wants all sexual assaults punished by court-martial.

It also said the services “should be sparing in discharging in lieu of court-martial members of the Armed Forces who have committed rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy, or attempts to commit such offenses, and should do so only when the facts of the case clearly warrant such discharge.” If a discharge is the course of action, it should be “other than honorable.” The House, on the other hand, wants such cases handled at general courts-martial with a guarantee that minimum punishment will include dismissal or dishonorable discharge.

Platforms and vehicles

Lawmakers put some strict requirements on improving and purchasing a variety of gear.

For example, the Senate bill forbids the Army from acquiring the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System in fiscal 2014. EMARSS is a project to develop an aircraft that would become the Army’s newest intelligence platform.

The House Armed Services Committee seeks stronger demands.

Lawmakers noted “numerous concerns related to the performance and program management of the Distributed Common Ground System-Army program,” the service’s effort to integrate all streams of intelligence, and they reminded the Army that it has failed to produce a report required by this year’s NDAA.

Lawmakers also said a commitment to the 30-year Patriot missile modernization strategy is “premature” without a comprehensive, independent life-cycle cost analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, and put a hold on 25 percent of Stryker procurement funds until the Army secretary submits a report on the spare parts inventory.

Regarding upgrades to unmanned ground vehicles, lawmakers were friendlier.

The Army has bought more than 5,000 UGVs over the past decade. Lawmakers want the Army to modify the vehicles to support engineering, military police and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear missions. Programs such as PackBot and Talon must be transferred from overseas contingency operations to a base budget that is stretched thin.

The House also wants the Army to expand the success of gunshot detection systems to vehicles and helicopters. And it is pressing the Army to fund research and development of an active protection system for the Ground Combat Vehicle.

Congress fully funded the Army’s fiscal 2013 request of $639.9 million for R&D on the GCV. But lawmakers said the lack of an APS will “soon create a critical capability gap for Army combat vehicles due to the rapid proliferation of advanced anti-tank guided missiles and next-generation rocket propelled grenades.” The Army was “encouraged” to establish and fund a program in fiscal 2015.

The Army is also ordered to take some lessons from the Marine Corps. Those start with the multipurpose, high explosive 120mm round for the M1A1 Abrams.

The Corps also has used an unmanned aerial system to move cargo loads of up to 4,500 pounds in Afghanistan for the past 15 months, while the Army has no similar program. The House is so impressed with the program that it wants Army Secretary John McHugh to submit a UAS cargo assessment by Feb. 15, 2014.

Other requirements and recommendations include:

■The call for R&D to better leverage commercial wireless technology waveforms.

■An expanded user evaluation of the M4 carbine powered rail system.

■Investment in a vehicle survivability systems integration study program.

■Development of third-generation forward-looking infrared sensors to overcome countermeasures “that could degrade and potentially overmatch” the 20-year-old technology in use.

■Expedited testing of lightweight tactical, rapidly installable medical evacuation racks.

The legislative bodies will now hash out their differences.

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