Dempsey: Military ethical lapses have ‘my full attention’

Anne Wernikoff

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey said the recent string of lapses among top military officials is prompting the military to intensify its ethics training.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Dempsey said that the renewed emphasis on ethics should also mean the military will place more importance on officers’ character when weighing promotions.

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"The Joint Chiefs and I are concerned and committed to ensuring that our military leaders of all ranks uphold the trust that we've established with the American people," Dempsey said. "This has my full attention."

Dempsey said that he and the service chiefs were putting together a series of initiatives to re-emphasize the importance of ethics.

The military has faced a series of scandals across the services in recent months, including a Navy bribery case that has two admirals under investigation and an Air Force nuclear test cheating scandal that’s ballooned to 92 suspended officers.

The military has tried to tackle ethics before in the face of high-profile scandals. In November 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta launched an ethics review shortly after the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus and the allegations of an inappropriate relationship — which were ultimately determined to be unfounded — against then-Afghanistan commander Gen. John Allen.

A spokesman for Dempsey, Col. Ed Thomas, told the Journal that the new focus on ethics was tied to the military entering a postwar transition, not recent digressions.

Dempsey said that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not directly to blame for the ethical lapses, but that the rate of deployments resulted in less of a focus on reinforcing professional standards.

“It is not the war that has caused this," Dempsey said. "It is the pace, and our failure to understand that at that pace, we were neglecting the tools that manage us as a profession over time."  

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