Op-Ed: How to Improve U.S. Military Safety

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Today’s United States military forces are considered the world’s only remaining superpower. The United States military is contained in the U.S. Department of Defense and consists of five branches, all of which have a worldwide presence and jurisdiction. They are the U.S Coast Guard, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps and the U. S. Navy. These five branches, their names and functions performed are well-known by the American public and loom writ large world-wide.

What is, however, not well-known is each military branch has its own law enforcement agency. The U. S. Coast Guard has the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), the U.S. Army has the Army Criminal Investigation Division (ACID), the U.S. Air Force has the Air Force Office of Special Investigation (AFOSI), The U.S. Marine Corps has the Marine Corps Criminal Investigation Division (MCCID) and the U.S. Navy has the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS). 

The CGIS, ACID, AFOSI, MCCID and NCIS strategic priorities are to reduce crime, protect military secrets and prevent terrorism. They also perform background checks on military applicants, military personnel, people being considered for employment in defense industries. What’s more they probe espionage, terrorism, illegal technology transfer, computer infiltration and provide personal protection to military leaders and other officials. The effort by hostile forces to obtain the secrets and technological advances of the U.S. military have heightened the importance of protecting U. S. military technologies and data.

Photo from U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command Website.

Moreover, due to increased security and safety concerns, U.S. military facilities are on a high alert for all manner of criminal assaults and other misdeeds. The five military law enforcement agencies each have a distinguished history in their own right as concerns fulfilling their mandate to provide safety and investigate crimes ranging from DWI to theft to murder. 

However, today is a new day. There are safety concerns that have taken an unprecedented level of urgency. Incidents of armed gunmen shooting up military bases have increased in number. Some recent U. S. military base shooting incidents are illustrative: 2011 shooting in Fort Drum New York, 2012 shootings in Fort Carson Colorado, and Fort Richardson Alaska. 2013 shootings in Fort Bragg North Carolina, Quantico Virginia, Washington DC Navy Yard and Fort Knox Kentucky. In 2014 there was a shooting in Norfolk Virginia. In 2015 there was a shooting in Chattanooga Tennessee. And, in 2019 shootings in Beaufort South Carolina, Pensacola Florida, Pearl Harbor Hawaii and Virginia Beach, Virginia just to name a few.

It’s time for a wide-ranging public discussion about the role of U.S. military law enforcement agencies and the work they do. Its time to seriously consider merging the CGIS, AFOSI, ACID, MCCID and the NCIS into one all-powerful and new United States Military Police (USMP).

Ideally, this newly formed law enforcement agency would be a separate and freestanding military branch unto itself and not organizationally aligned with the five military branches. Maintaining an outside and separate institution fixture would allow for professional detachment and would combine the strengths of these five entities and allow for the maximization of resources and expertise of all these agencies. 

This merger can be attained either by an Act of Congress or by an Executive Order signed by the President who per the United States Constitution is the Commander-in-Chief of all U.S. military forces. 

Either way, it must be done–the sooner–the better. Public safety demands nothing less.

Joe Gonzalez is a community activist who lives and works in Brooklyn New York.