By the end of 2023, the Army’s new independent prosecutorial office dedicated to handling complex, severe cases will assume full control over those cases under changes imposed by Congress in recent years, taking such decisions out of commanders’ hands.

The service’s new Office of Special Trial Counsel will be led by Brig. Gen. Warren L. Wells, officials announced in December. Wells is an experienced Army judge advocate, and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth (to whom Wells will directly report) described him as “the experienced leader the Army needs to lead the Office of Special Trial Counsel and ensure its independent oversight of the Army’s most complex cases.”

But there’s work yet to do before Wells’ office is ready to start prosecuting covered crimes, which include murder, manslaughter, rape and sexual assault, rape of a child, sexual assault of a child, other sexual misconduct, kidnapping, domestic violence, stalking, retaliation, child pornography and wrongful broadcast. Lawmakers also may add sexual harassment to that list, according to the most recent draft of the fiscal 2023 defense policy bill.

In written testimony submitted to a House panel in September, Army Undersecretary Gabe Camarillo said the office “is in the process of hiring additional civilian experts” who are adept in sexual assault and domestic violence, plus other specialists in “training, data analysis, and wellness.”

The office is planning to have 159 combined civilian and military personnel by the end of December 2023, Camarillo said.

The undersecretary added that outside of the special counsel’s office, the Army is also “refining a plan for career litigation billets that increases our ability to identify, grow, and staff experienced criminal litigation positions, in both the prosecution and defense, at all stages and ranks of a military career.”

It’s not clear when the plan will reach full implementation, though.

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.

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