Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 13, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. REED. Mr. President, I rise to discuss the nomination of Musetta Tia Johnson, who is nominated to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the senior appellate court for the military, with exclusive jurisdiction over the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Ms. Johnson was favorably reported out of the committee on April 5, 2022, and has been pending on the Senate calendar ever since. I am unaware of any objection to her nomination with respect to her qualifications to be a judge on this appellate court.

When confirmed, Miss Johnson will be one of five judges on the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, often referred to as the supreme court of military law. This court, which is composed of civilian appellate judges, has been operating without its full quota of confirmed judges for this entire judicial session, where it considered important jurisdictional and substantive military criminal law issues.

Importantly, the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act implemented extensive changes to the UCMJ, including a statute that would criminalize sexual harassment under some circumstances. Ms. Johnson will play a critical role on the court of appeals in reviewing challenges and issues with the recent sexual assault and sexual harassment statutes, including defendants' rights under the UCMJ. Without Ms. Johnson, the court risks deadlock, which will further hamper the military's ability to maintain good order and discipline.

861, Musetta Tia Johnson to be a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces for a term of 15 years; that the Senate vote on the nomination without intervening action or debate; and that, if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table and the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action.


Mr. REED. Retaining my time, Mr. President, I disagree, obviously, with the Senator from Missouri.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has had extensive oversight on Afghanistan. The committee actions include seven public and closed hearings regarding the Afghan war, lessons learned, and ongoing regional counterterrorism requirements since the withdrawal last August. Senator Hawley had the opportunity to participate in each of these hearings.

The fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act contained a provision that mandated that the Department of Defense deliver quarterly briefings in both unclassified and classified form on the security situation in Afghanistan and ongoing counterterrorism efforts. The classified briefings have taken place on January 20, April 14, and July 21. The unclassified briefings have taken place on February 14 and April 25. Most recently, on October 19, the committee held unclassified and classified briefings, and Senator Hawley has full access to these briefings.

The fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act also contained a provision, section 1069, which requires the yearly assessment of our ``over the horizon'' counter-terrorism capabilities in Afghanistan. The committee has received the first installment, and this, too, is accessible to all members of the committee.

The fiscal year 2022 NDAA further mandated the establishment of the Afghanistan War Commission, which will spend several years examining all aspects of the 20-year war in depth. Let me emphasize--the 20-year war in depth. All the Commissioners have been appointed. We expect the Commission to commence work in the near term.

I note that Senator Hawley indicated that beginning in 2020 there were reports that military leaders were warning of possible complications. That was during the term of President Trump.

I think also one of the issues that has to be looked at is the release of 5,000 Taliban fighters at the direction of President Trump and over the objections of the Afghan Government. Were they at Abbey Gate? Were they the leading forces who were moving in and surrounding Kabul?

This situation requires a long, detailed study. To focus on one event will create headlines but not information or knowledge that we can bring forward. The factors contributing to Abbey Gate were long in the making, and unless we look at those factors over time, unless we look at the whole operation, I don't think we are going to get the kinds of insights we need.

So I respectfully disagree with Senator Hawley's objection, and I hope we can find a way to confirm Ms. Johnson.