Pentagon: Hagel fears deep ethical problem in the military

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is worried about a growing ethics problem within the military, following recent revelations that about 100 Air Force nuclear missileers and 30 Navy nuclear reactor operators cheated on qualification tests. 

“This issue has his full attention, and it’s fair to say he’s deeply troubled by it,” said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby at a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday. 

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"He's concerned about the health of the force, the health of the strong culture of accountability and responsibility Americans have come to expect from our military," he added. 

Hagel made ethical lapses “front and center” during his weekly meeting with service chiefs on Wednesday, and will continue to do so, Kirby said. 

“He sees this as a growing problem, and he’s concerned about the depth of this,” he said. 

Kirby also announced that work has begun on an internal action plan to identify and fix systemic personnel problems in the nuclear force, said that retired Air Force General Larry Welch and retired Navy Admiral John Harvey have been tasked to lead an independent review on the nuclear force.

"He announces these positions mindful of new allegations that have surfaced in recent days concerning the ethical behavior of service members in and out of the nuclear force," Kirby said.

Pentagon leaders must take a step back and put renewed emphasis on teaching moral character and moral courage, he said. 

Kirby said the majority of men and women in uniform are "brave, honest and upright people," adding, “It doesn’t take more than a few to stain the entire integrity.”