A commanding officer (CO) has the authority to impose non-judicial punishment. The CO also has many other responsibilities, including authorizing searches and seizures of property; making the initial determination to confine an accused; and exercising prosecutorial discretion. In exercising discretion, a CO may dismiss charges; effect non-punitive measures; impose non-judicial punishment; or refer a matter to court-martial.
In referring a matter to court-martial, the CO becomes the convening authority. As such, the CO decides what charges to refer to the court-martial; what type of courts-martial; and selects the court-martial members (jury).
Additionally, the convening authority may negotiate and bind the particular branch of military service to pretrial agreements; grant immunity to witnesses; disapprove findings; and grant clemency on the sentence.
These powers are not absolute. Commanding officers and convening authorities are governed in their actions by the UCMJ, the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM) and the Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN).