The purpose of an Army Regulation (AR) 15-6 investigation is to find facts, document and preserve evidence, and then report the facts and evidence to the approval authority. The U.S. Army must pursue an AR 15-6 investigation when certain kinds of incidents or allegations occur. The results can end the career for the Soldier facing investigation. This guide provides information regarding the process.
When you’re under investigation, there is no substitute for having the best team of military defense lawyers and investigators on your side to advise you, investigate your side of the story, and advocate on your behalf!
The most important decision for a Soldier under investigation will be what information to provide to the investigating officer during the investigation. A Soldier that is not a field grade officer is not entitled to respond or provide a rebuttal to a negative finding after an investigation. The information you provide to the investigating officer can be pivotal to the ultimate findings and should be discussed with an experienced military defense lawyer.
What can trigger an investigation?
The appointing authority can choose to issue an investigation into any incident or allegation under AR 15-6 with the purpose of finding facts.
Examples of common issues in an AR 15-6 investigation:
- Sexual Harassment
- Toxic leadership
- Destruction or loss of property
Serious Incident Investigations must be ordered in the following circumstances:
- Property damaged is valued at $2 million or more
- The loss or destruction of an Army aircraft
- Injury or illness resulting in permanent total disability or the death of one or more persons
- Combat-related deaths involving non-DOD personnel or an insider
- Instances of friendly fire
How long will the investigation take?
The sample appointment memorandum in AR 15-6 states that the investigating officer (IO) must prioritize the investigation over all other military duties and provides the IO 30 days to conduct the investigation.
However, IOs are unlikely to have any investigative experience, and they often fail to prioritize the investigation over other duties. They may request extensions during the investigation, and this leads to delays that will differ from case to case.
At Military Law, we take proactive efforts for all our clients who are facing an investigation to encourage legal offices and commanders to limit delays, unless a delay is to the benefit of our clients.
What is the AR 15-6 investigation process?
The IO will be instructed to locate facts to support findings at the end of the investigation. They should acquire sworn statements from witnesses involved with the matter. They should review any relevant records. The evidence collected will guide the IO in coming to factual findings, which should be used to justify recommendations to the chain of command.
Best practices for an investigating officer:
- Prioritize in-person interviews, using telephone interviews only “if necessary”
- Prepare for interviews by reviewing the records, facts, and allegations
- Collect all relevant information from the most direct sources
- Interview relevant witnesses prior to interviewing the subject
- Interview all witnesses mentioned during the investigation
- Collect from all sources the Who, What, When, Where, and Why
- Substantiate factual findings with the unbiased facts
- Ask all witnesses to provide any additional information they believe should be considered
What are your rights during the investigation?
As in any investigation in which you are the subject of misconduct, you have the right to remain silent, and anything you state may be used against you. In an AR 15-6 investigation, it can be useful to be forthcoming with a candid statement and to present evidence in your defense, but you should not do so without consulting an experienced military lawyer first.
You have the right to a lawyer. The Army may provide you with a TDS attorney free of charge, but the missteps of a junior lawyer can cost you dearly. An AR 15-6 investigation can result in the loss of your position, your livelihood, and your military retirement. You also have the right to hire a much more experienced and effective lawyer to assist you.
At Military Law, we can provide you with an experienced team of military trial lawyers paired with an in-house investigator with actual federal government experience. We know how to get the right information, fight false narratives, and present your best defense.
What actions can you face after the AR 15-6 investigation ends?
When an IO substantiates findings at the end of the investigation, the results can vary from case to case and command to command. The IO will provide a written memorandum in support of the findings.
Possible actions from an adverse finding can be:
- General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR)
- Nonjudicial punishment
- Relief of command
- Change in duty position
- Referral NCOER or OER
- Administrative separation
- Qualitative Management Program (QMP)
- Board of Inquiry (BOI)
- Officer Grade Determination (OGD) upon retirement
- Criminal investigation by the Military Police or CID
Can you respond to an adverse finding from an AR 15-6 investigation?
Unfortunately, field grade officers are the only Soldiers guaranteed the opportunity to respond to an adverse finding and recommendation before the AR 15-6 investigation is finalized. All other Soldiers will be given an opportunity to respond to any adverse action they may receive following the close of the AR 15-6 investigation.
Can you request reconsideration?
As with any case, the best time to take defensive action is before a negative finding occurs. Requesting a second chance is an uphill battle and will take skilled investigative efforts, compelling new evidence, and persuasive legal arguments.
All Soldiers may be able to request reconsideration when an investigation results in an adverse finding. These requests must meet the following factors:
- New evidence that was not considered in the investigation
- New evidence must have been “not reasonably available for consideration”
- Be submitted within one year of the adverse finding
- Provide substantial evidence to support reopening the investigation
The ability to request reconsideration of your investigation will depend on the “preponderance of the evidence” you can provide. If you are looking to find the best evidence, you will want an experienced military defense attorney and defense investigator on your side!