Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management

Are Military Adultery Standards Changing: What are the Implications?

Date: October 7, 1998
Time: 10:00am

On August 14, 1998, the Federal Register contained proposed changes to the Department of Defense Manual for Courts Martial relating to adultery. This hearing focused on the new proposed guidelines and whether these changes would “clarify” the standards or make it easier for a commander to let someone off because the effects of the offense were not “immediate, obvious, and measurably divisive.”

Mrs. Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, testified that she had discovered through a FOIA request that DoD had solicited outside advice on the proposed change in the adultery standard from the ACLU and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Furthermore, she stated that DoD did not consult with any of the major veterans’ organizations or military professional societies such as the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Naval Institute. She believes that the proposed changes may serve to muddy the waters on prosecuting adultery and give the perception that adultery is not taken seriously by the military.

Dr. Daniel R. Heimbach, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower, testified that the proposed changes would lower the adultery standard by shifting the way a punishable offense is defined by moving the nature of the offense away from a matter of objective fact (whether the act occurred or not) and toward a matter of subjective interpretation (how others feel about it). Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Maginnis, USA (Ret.), Director of the Military Readiness Project of the Family Research Council and formerly in the Inspector

General’s office investigating adultery cases of general officers, testified that the changes would serve to “civilianize” the military culture, interfering with the focus of troops and damaging combat readiness, morale, and unit cohesion.