The recent Marine Corps Nude photo scandal has gotten the attention of top military officials. Reportedly, major policy reform is pending in order to address #cyber misconduct. Top leaders from the Marine Corps and now the Navy have proposed the possibility of administratively separating service members for on-line lewd activity and cyber harassment. To hold service members accountable, military policies would require policy reformation that would affect all service members—both Navy and Marine personnel. The fact that the military is merely treating this as a policy malfunction has politicians and advocates off the hinge.

The last time that such changes were made to military policy was in 1973, according to military sources. Sources are comparing the recent inappropriate cyber activity to rampant illegal drug use by military members in the early 60s and 70s. According to Defense Department statistics, “47 percent of troops were found to have used drugs in 1973, compared to just 3 percent by 1995.” Officials question whether or not our culture is facing similar cultural issues, only now it is gross human rights violations and cyberbullying.

Navy and Marine leadership consider updated policies

Reportedly, the same approach to lowering #drug infractions is being implemented via policy to reduce and address the number of sexual assault and cyber offenders.

Experts on military sexual trauma (MST) are still advocating for policy reformation to actually prosecute offenders, yet new policies are now being updated to address online harassment only and not physical sexual offenders. It is unclear whether or not the new policy will ensure that physical offenders (sexual assault, domestic violence) will be held accountable in the same manner.

In an interview regarding the possible revised policy, Lt. General Mark Brilakis—a high ranking Marine official—indicated that there is no guarantee that military members can be prosecuted or separated even under the new policy. He did state that “Whether it be through an administrative procedure or a military justice procedure, there are processes.”

There is no indication if he and other officials will be addressing the lack of attention to sexual assault victims in Marine units that are often grossly mishandled by the commanding officers—an issue (Gillibrand's Amendment) that has been in filibuster for almost four years.

These newly revised policies still have the possibility of affecting service member’s futures if they are administratively discharged from the Marines or the Navy.

Administrative separation vs. honorable discharge

Most service members leave the military with honorable discharges—a favorable record. Honorable discharges pave the way for successful use of education benefits, healthcare, life insurance, and veteran care. Veterans use their hard-earned benefits due to their honorable sacrifices.

Unlike those with honorable discharges, service members that are administratively separated—or forced out—often lose out on collecting typical veteran benefits. Reasons for being separated in this manner may include punitive violations such as illegal activities, drugs, abuse, and even being out of military weight standards.

Sources indicate that an administrative discharge can affect service member's futures and the futures of their families. Senior leaders are hoping that these proposed policy changes will deter harassing behavior and sexual assault, while advocates and cultural experts call for more cultural awareness.