Difference Between a Commander’s Inquiry and a 15-6 Investigation
A Commander’s Inquiry and a 15-6 Investigation are administrative procedures used by the U.S. military to investigate incidents, allegations, or issues within the command. However, they differ in terms of their scope, purpose, and the level of authority involved:
- Scope: A Commander’s Inquiry is generally less formal and less extensive than a 15-6 Investigation.
- Purpose: It is usually conducted by a lower-ranking commander, such as a company or battalion commander, to gather information and make initial assessments about an incident or situation. The primary goal is to determine whether further investigation is warranted.
- Authority: The commanding officer or a designated representative within their unit or organization conducts a Commander’s Inquiry.
- Outcome: The outcome of a Commander’s Inquiry can vary. It may result in no further action if the investigation finds no misconduct or significant issues. Alternatively, if the commander believes that a more thorough investigation is necessary, they may recommend a 15-6 Investigation.
- Scope: A 15-6 Investigation guided by AR 15-6 is a more formal and comprehensive investigation conducted by a higher-ranking officer, typically a field-grade officer (Major or higher) or a civilian equivalent.
- Purpose: Commanders use a 15-6 investigation when a more in-depth examination of an incident or allegation is required. Commanders use 15-6 Investigations for matters involving potential violations of military regulations, serious incidents, or misconduct allegations.
- Authority: An officer not directly in command of the individuals involved in the incident or allegation conducts a 15-6 Investigation and ensures independence and impartiality.
- Outcome: The outcome of a 15-6 Investigation is a formal report that includes findings of fact and recommendations for further action. Depending on the results, it can lead to disciplinary actions, administrative actions, or other appropriate measures.
In summary, the key differences between a Commander’s Inquiry and a 15-6 Investigation lie in their formality, scope, authority, and purpose. A Commander’s Inquiry is typically a preliminary assessment conducted by a lower-ranking commander within their unit. At the same time, a 15-6 Investigation is a more thorough and independent investigation carried out by a higher-ranking officer or civilian authority. The choice between the two procedures depends on the seriousness and complexity of the matter.
A 15-6 investigation under the guise of AR 15-6 is a formal inquiry conducted by a designated officer (typically a field-grade officer or civilian equivalent) to investigate various types of incidents, allegations, or misconduct within the military. The specific types of misconduct that may warrant a 15-6 investigation can vary, but they often include:
- Criminal Misconduct: Allegations or incidents involving illegal activities within the military, such as theft, assault, fraud, drug offenses, or sexual assault, may be subject to a 15-6 investigation. Commanders may initiate these investigations to determine whether to pursue criminal charges.
- Professional Misconduct: This category can encompass a wide range of misconduct related to a soldier’s professional duties and conduct, including dereliction of duty, insubordination, or violations of military regulations and orders.
- Sexual Harassment or Assault: The Military takes allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault seriously. Commands may conduct a 15-6 investigation to gather evidence and determine whether disciplinary or legal action is warranted. A Sexual assault investigation typically includes law enforcement.
- Workplace Misconduct: Issues related to the workplace, such as discrimination, retaliation, or other violations of equal opportunity policies, may be investigated through a 15-6 process.
- Accidents and Safety Incidents: Serious accidents, injuries, or fatalities during training exercises, operations, or other military activities may prompt a 15-6 investigation to determine the cause and prevent future occurrences.
- Injuries or Deaths in Combat: The Military may investigate whether injuries or fatalities occurred during combat operations to assess whether any misconduct or failures in command contributed to the outcome.
- Administrative Matters: Some 15-6 investigations may focus on administrative matters, such as promotions, assignments, or awards, to ensure fairness and adherence to military regulations.
- Whistleblower Complaints: When a soldier raises concerns about wrongdoing or unethical behavior within the military, the command may follow AR 15-6 and initiate a 15-6 investigation to address these concerns and protect the whistleblower from retaliation.
- Other Serious Incidents: Commands may investigate any other incidents or allegations deemed severe and warrant a thorough investigation to determine facts, accountability, and appropriate actions.
The decision to initiate a 15-6 investigation guided by AR 15-6 depends on the circumstances and the judgment of military authorities. These investigations are typically conducted by an impartial officer not directly in the chain of command of the individuals involved, ensuring independence and objectivity in the inquiry. A 15-6 investigation aims to gather facts, assess accountability, and make recommendations for further actions, which can include disciplinary measures, legal proceedings, administrative actions, or policy changes.
Commanders are likely to turn investigations of Serious charges like Sexual Assault, Manslaughter, Murder, Child Abuse, or Domestic Violence to law enforcement like the Criminal Investigation Command.
Regardless of who is doing the investigation, the subject of an inquiry retains their right to counsel and the right to remain silent. Often, the target of the investigation will try to clear things up by telling their side of the story. Talking to investigators without consulting an attorney is a mistake. A person will only verify facts the investigator may know that support the conclusion that misconduct occurred.
If you are under investigation, consult with an experienced attorney. Commanders must now submit investigation reports on O4s and above to their permanent records. HRC will include them in their promotion review file. It is essential to respond to investigation results before this happens so that the command adds any mitigating information in this report.
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