Under the current Alaska National Guard rules, misconduct is only met with administrative penalties. Now, legislators are preparing to strengthen the code.
For an hour and a half, acting Adjutant General Mike Bridges walked the House State Affairs committee through the problems with the Alaska National Guard’s disciplinary system.
“Alaska’s military code was written in 1955 when we weren’t a state,” said Bridges. “It has never been updated or truly affected or enacted since. It’s incredibly antiquated. It has no teeth, and for various reasons over the decades, it has never been enforced in Alaska.”
The deficiencies with the Guard’s disciplinary process were laid out last year, when an investigation by the federal National Guard Bureau documented problems with sexual assault reporting, fraud, favoritism, and mistrust of leadership. The way the military code is currently written, a member of the Guard can be passed over for promotions or discharged from the service, but they can’t be court-martialed in the way Army troops or Air Force members can.
Bridges noted the Alaska force has been working with Guard leadership at the federal level, along with the governor’s office, to come up with a variation on the Uniform Code of Military Justice that would work for the state.
“I call it a preventative measure,” said Bridges. “If folks know there’s a big hammer waiting with a criminal charge to it for while they’re serving in the militia of this state, the National Guard, they’re probably going to think twice about it, unless they’re truly going to offend anyway.”
Many of the questions Bridges fielded dealt with whether the federal code could simply be adopted wholesale. Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, an Anchorage Republican, also wanted to know if adopting the code could interfere with criminal charges being filed in the state courts system.
The answer was no.
“We’re going to call the cops anyway,” said Bridges. “What this gives is the state government, besides just the law enforcement side, it gives us a military tool, because we’re a militia to prosecute as a state UCMJ — military code.”
A bill to update the code has not yet been introduced, but the Legislature’s Democratic minority has announced plans to file such legislation.
Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Walker is planning to announce his pick to lead the National Guard on Friday.