WASHINGTON, DC – The Navy this week began subjecting randomly-selected Sailors to non-judicial punishment proceedings based on crimes they will likely commit in the future.
Dubbed “NJP 365”, the new program is being tested at a handful of stateside sea and shore commands, and is the newest addendum to the sea service’s 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative — a multi-pronged effort to reinforce healthy and positive lifestyles for service members both on duty and off.
“We’re trying to nip things in the bud before they blossom out of control,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, during a recent conference call with reporters. “The goal here is to identify those few Sailors who might be feeling a little anxiety now about any of the bad stuff they plan on doing in the future—anything from getting a speeding ticket, to gundecking a maintenance log, to beating their wives during a spice-induced blackout—and then to take preventative action by imposing discipline before they misstep.”
Similar to the Navy’s long-standing drug urinalysis policy and its more recent alcohol detection program, NJP 365 selects test subjects at random and begins its proceedings as soon as those Sailors come to work.
Immediately upon reporting for duty, NJP 365 Sailors are removed from their workspaces and confined to their command 24 hours a day on a restricted liberty status. During that time, a panel of Navy psychologist, psychiatrists, and privately-contracted psychics subject the Sailors to an extensive battery of rigorous tests to determine which crimes they will commit at a later date. Once an individual’s tests are complete, the Sailor stands before his commanding officer during non-judicial punishment proceedings (commonly referred to as “captain’s mast”) and all of the testing data gathered is submitted as evidence.
Since implementation of NJP 365 began, reaction among the rank and file has been mixed.
“I don’t think this is fair. I mean, I’m going to mast this Thursday for stealing a prescription pad and some Percocets from my supervisor at Balboa Medical in July of 2015,” said Seaman Ysenia Espansa, a San Diego-based Sailor who was chosen to participate in the program. “Not only have I never taken a Percocet,” she added, “but I’ve never even thought about trying to strike for Corpsman . . . So, I guess now I’m supposed to, right?”
For those sailors who view NJP 365 as heavy-handed at best and Draconian at worst, Mabus disagreed, saying the program is meant to be non-punitive and used only as a training tool.
“We’re not sending our Sailors to captain’s mast to harm them, we’re doing it to help them,” he said. “There is nothing punitive about NJP 365.”
As a caveat, however, Mabus added that any and all final disciplinary decisions regarding Sailors found guilty of future crimes are at the discretion of the accused Sailor’s commanding officer.
“We’re trying to identify shipmates who need help, primarily,” said Mabus.
“But, if we occasionally encounter that rare Sailor who is deemed to be a real troublemaker a few years down the road, then that member's commanding officer may deal with the situation as he or she sees fit.”
At press time, 26 sailors from NJP 365’s initial test rollout have completed captain’s mast proceedings. Seventeen of the accused were found guilty and awarded reduction in rank and loss of pay, eight others have requested some form of court-martial, and the group's only officer, an unnamed lieutenant (junior-grade) whom the panel determined will commit drunken vehicular manslaughter on Christmas Eve 2017, received verbal counseling.