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Pentagon to announce new rules on dating, marriage, adultery

army graphic

From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

July 28, 1998
Web posted at: 2:19 p.m. EDT (1819 GMT)

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- The Pentagon will announce a new policy this week that will end the Army's long-standing policy of allowing officers to date and marry enlisted personnel, sources told CNN on Tuesday.

The new rules are part of an overhaul of U.S. military guidelines governing romantic relationships in the military, including dating, marriage, and adultery.

Defense Secretary William Cohen, traveling in Australia, said the new policies on adultery will not change military law, known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but will clarify the circumstances under which adultery will be prosecuted.

"We want high standards, and there will be no lowering of standards and no changing of the code," Cohen said.

Cohen told reporters he hopes to achieve a "greater equity in disposition of the cases."

"Hopefully through this process we will be putting information out that will familiarize commanding officers in terms of what factors they can take into account, and should take into account in disposing of the cases as they arise," he said.

Dating will be affected as well, with officers no longer being allowed to date or marry enlisted personnel.

Currently, the Army is the only service that allows officers to date enlisted soldiers, so long as they are not in the same chain of command. The Air Force and the Navy do not permit dating between officers and enlisted personnel.


Cohen has said he wants a uniform policy for all the services to avoid confusion because U.S. troops increasing serve in "joint" operations, like Bosnia, which have a mix of military services.

Sources say the policy will have a "grandfather" clause that will cover military marriages between officers and enlisted personnel, and will likely not go into effect until some time in the future, to allow soldiers time to comply with the new rules.

Army officials fought the change, arguing the Army's policy of allowing romantic relationships between officer and enlisted personnel was more realistic and was unrelated to the recent sexual assault scandal at the Army Ordnance School in Aberdeen, Maryland.

But in the end, sources say, Cohen has come down on the side of uniformity.

"If you want a uniform policy, the Army has to change," said one Pentagon official. "Otherwise it's the tail wagging the dog."

Earlier this year Cohen appointed a committee to look into possible changes in the adultery laws, after Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston withdrew his nomination to be Joint Chiefs Chairman because of an affair he had in the 1980s while he was separated from his wife.

Cohen argued Ralston's case was different from that of former Air Force First Lt. Kelly Flinn, a B-52 bomber pilot who was allowed to resign last year instead of going to court-martial on charges of adultery, disobeying orders, and lying under oath.

The new adultery rules would attempt to discriminate between a officer who had an affair that in no way affected the military and one who had an affair with a subordinate, or subordinate's spouse, which could affect "good order and discipline."

"I believe that this, in conjunction with fraternization rules, will hopefully bring about a greater understanding of the rules and also the flexibility that commanding officers have so they don't necessarily go from an incident directly to a court-martial," Cohen told reporters.

Cohen denied that the current sex scandal surrounding President Clinton has made it more difficult to deal with adultery in the military.

"The entire discussion was brought about as a result of cases that have surfaced and have become very high profile," he said. "No other outside factors have been involved and have not made it any difference at all."

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