Secretary of Defense James Mattis wants commanders to rely more on the military justice system for disciplinary problems rather than faster and easier administrative action, Military Times reported.
In a memo, Mattis praises the justice system as a "powerful tool" for order and discipline, and declares it is a "commander's duty to use it."
"Leaders must be willing to choose the harder right over the easier wrong," he argued.
"Administrative actions should not be the default method to address illicit conduct simply because it is less burdensome than the military justice system. Leaders cannot be so risk-adverse that they lose their focus on forging disciplined troops ready to ferociously and ethically defeat our enemies in the battlefield."
An investigation in 2014 by the military news outlet found the numbers for punishment handed down by the Uniformed Code of Military Justice showed a spike during the 2006-2007 surge in Iraq, and then sharply declined.
According to Military Times, the probe showed military commanders are more likely to rely on administrative punishment, including issuing a non-judicial punishment and quickly seeking administrative separation, rather than pushing for a full court-martial.
"If a subordinate makes a mistake, leaders should learn to coach them better," Mattis wrote. "But we must not tolerate or ignore lapses in discipline, for our enemies will benefit if we do not correct and appropriately punish substandard conduct. Time, inconvenience, or administrative burdens are no excuse for allowing substandard conduct to persist."
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