Hagel hints at ethics enforcer

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Friday that he would appoint a senior general officer to address ethical lapses and misbehavior in the military.

“It will be an individual who is experienced in not just this building, but I want someone who understands the outside, who understands the pressures of combat, the pressures of curriculums and testing, and who has a good, well-rounded background in command,” Hagel said at a Pentagon briefing on Friday.

He did not disclose the individual he would appoint but said an announcement would be made very soon. 

The announcement comes after a series of high profile scandals involving nuclear forces in the Air Force and the Navy. 

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Earlier this week, the Navy announced it had suspended about 30 out of approximately 150 of its nuclear reactor operators at a training unit in Charleston, S.C., for cheating on qualifications exams. 

Last week, the Air Force announced that an unrelated investigation into Air Force missileers cheating on proficiency had expanded to 92, with about 20 more failing retests. All have been restricted or suspended. 

Within the last year, multiple scandals involving senior officers have erupted, from adultery, sexual assault, drinking, gambling and misuse of government funds. 

“I think we need to find out, is there a deep, wide problem? If there is, then what's the scope of that problem? How did this occur? Was it a constant focus of 12 years on two long land wars, taking our emphasis off some of these other areas? I don't know. We intend to find out,” he said. 

Hagel said he believed most of the military behaved with integrity and moral courage, but that some are “falling short” of high standards expected in the military. 

“Ethics and character are absolute values that we cannot take for granted. They must be constantly reinforced,” he said. 

Over the next few weeks, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Hagel will be announcing actions that the services would take to deal with the problem.

“It is the responsibility of all of us who ask for the trust and confidence of the American people,” he said. “We’re going to continue to address it, and we’re going to fix it.”

Dempsey, who was not at the briefing, added in a statement, "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. This has my full attention."  

He also pushed back against the notion that war has led to ethical lapses.

"It is not the war that has caused this. 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," Dempsey said. "This challenge didn't accumulate overnight, and it won't be solved overnight." 

"Acts of crime, misconduct, ethical breaches, command climate, and stupidity each require a distinct solution," he added. "But the overall solution is attenion to who we are as a profession. And that's my focus."

 

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