15-6 Investigation RebuttalMarch 29, 2021
15-6 Investigation Rebuttal
A 15-6 Investigation, governed by AR 15-6 (available at this link), is the Command’s primary way to gather information when they are unclear on what occurred. 15-6 Investigations are explained more at this link. This Article addresses the time after an investigation is completed by an Investigating Officer, and under what circumstances someone under investigation can submit a 15-6 Investigation Rebuttal.
Once an Investigating Officer has completed their investigation, he/she writes a report of their findings and recommendations. Contrary to popular belief, the investigation is not finalized at this time. Before an investigation can be finalized, the Investigation Approval Authority (see paragraph 2-8) has to approve, disapprove, or modify all of the findings and recommendations. Before this occurs, some individuals are allowed to submit a 15-6 Investigation Rebuttal.
According to AR 15-6, paragraph 2-8c(1) “[w]hen an investigation includes a finding containing adverse information (defined below) regarding a field grade officer, the portion of the report of investigation and supporting evidence pertaining to the adverse information must be referred to that officer…” That Officer will have at least 10 business days to respond. According to the regulation, this right to respond is extended to Field Grade Officers because such adverse findings “…may be considering in future promotion boards that will consider those officers for promotion.” Army Directive 2023-03 recently expanded the right to respond to adverse information by amending AR 15-6. Essentially, now 2LTs and above have the right to respond to any proposed adverse information in an investigation.
“Adverse Information” is defined as follows: “Adverse information is any substantiated adverse finding or conclusion from an officially documented investigation or inquiry or any other credible information of an adverse nature. To be credible, the information must be resolved and supported by a preponderance of the evidence. To be adverse, the information must be derogatory, unfavorable, or of a nature that reflects clearly unacceptable conduct, integrity, or judgment on the part of the individuals..."
Some installations have extended the right to respond to a 15-6 Investigation to lower ranks. For example, Attorney Barry has noticed that some installations extend this right to Warrant Officers, First Sergeants, and Sergeants Major. Extending the right to respond is solely at the discretion of every installation, and only Majors and above are required to be given this opportunity. An Officer/NCO in this situation will be provided with the findings and recommendations pertaining to them, as well as the supporting evidence. Typically, some portions of the investigation are going to be redacted.
A 15-6 Investigation Rebuttal can ask for modification or disapproval of any finding and/or recommendation. Furthermore, one can simply provide mitigating information, in an effort reduce follow-on adverse actions. Additionally, a 15-6 Investigation Rebuttal can include additional evidence that was not collected by the Investigating Officer (i.e. text messages, written statements, photos). While letters of general character are never wasted, typically they will not make a difference on whether a finding/recommendation is approved or not. It is not recommended to simply look up a "15-6 Investigation Rebuttal Example" and make a similar one. Every investigation is unique, and a good rebuttal is too. The assistance of a lawyer experienced with 15-6 Investigations is advisable.
Any Officer or NCO who has been provided a 15-6 Investigation and given the opportunity to provide a rebuttal should immediately recognize that his/her career is in jeopardy. Approved 15-6 findings can result in adverse actions such as a Court-Martial, GOMOR, Article 15, Board of Inquiry, Separation Board, etc. Furthermore, any approved adverse 15-6 findings will be entered into the Army Adverse Information Program (AAIP) database. When an Officer is up for promotion above the rank of Captain, the AAIP is reviewed and a Summary of Credible Information is created and placed in his/her promotion file for the promotion board. These consequences make a good AR 15-6 Investigation Rebuttal even more important. The assistance of a military lawyer with the experience and the time to help prepare an AR 15-6 Investigation Rebuttal is advisable.
This article with written by Attorney Matthew Barry.