Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership
Uniform Code of Military Conduct
The Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ, is the legal framework that governs all members of the United States military. The UCMJ covers a variety of legal issues from apprehension and confinement of military personnel to regulations covering courts of military appeals.
The UCMJ has its roots in the Articles of War, which were enacted in June of 1775 by the Second Continental Congress. The 69 Articles of War (later to be greatly expanded) regulated the Continental Army with specific applications and directives to cover many aspects of the profession of arms. The United States Navy had its own directives, the Articles for the Government of the United States Navy, (“Rocks and Shoals” - the nickname derives from a reference to “rocks and shoals” in Article 4, Section 10, of the document).
Later, the United States Constitution would give a more permanent mandate to Congress to maintain and regulate military forces. When Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789 it gave Congress the power to authorize new military rules and regulations.
The United States military would operate under the 101 Articles of War until the Uniform Code of Military Justice was passed by Congress in 1950. President Harry Truman signed the UCMJ into law. There have been changes since the passage of the UCMJ, some due to executive orders and some as a result of the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006 and the National Defense Authorization Act 2007.