Since its creation in 1950, the Uniform Code of Military Justice — with only minor tweaks along the way — has proven to be a remarkably durable framework for fairly carrying out the complex tenets of military justice.
The military justice system will always retain a certain level of camo-pattern quirkiness, simply due to the many unique aspects of military life.
But the times are changing more rapidly these days than they used to, and in some important respects, the UCMJ has become a bit outdated in comparison to the civilian judicial system.
Just one case in point: Do we really need to continue putting unruly service members at sea on "bread and water" rations, a practice whose heyday was the long-gone Age of Sail?
Eliminating that punishment is among dozens of proposed changes to the UCMJ that Pentagon officials have submitted to Congress for approval following an in-depth, two-year review.
Another proposal is to carve out 37 new, specific "articles" for criminal acts that until now have been grouped collectively under Article 134, the catch-all "General Article" that seeks to protect "good order and discipline."
Other suggested changes would simplify courts-martial of troops on deployment; give military judges broader authority over courts-martial sentencing; and make the UCMJ more reflective of modern technology.
On that last point, for example, Article 130, "Stalking," would be updated to include the misuse of emails, text messages, social media posts and other modern electronic communications for that purpose.
Taken as a whole, the proposal is a rational, good-faith effort to modernize the military justice system, adapting best practices in the civilian judiciary where it makes sense to do so.
Evidence of that good faith is embodied in one particularly important proposal that would make the entire system more transparent.
Today, accessing information about military trials can be difficult, costly and time-consuming — a longstanding complaint of advocates, defendants, the media and the public. Outside of bona fide national security concerns, there's just no need for such secrecy.