Defense & National Security

Pentagon begins ethics review of its generals — What took so long?

Pentagon begins ethics review of its generals -- What took so long?

With five general and flag officers taking a steep fall from grace in rapid succession within the last fortnight, the Department of Defense has decided to review the standards and integrity of its top commanders.

In a statement published by Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, Secretary Leon Panetta announced his intention to meet with the service chiefs to observe the ethics of senior officers at ranking one star and above.

“Over the past several months, the Secretary has spoken with the service secretaries, service chiefs, and combatant commanders about those instances when senior officers have not lived up to the standards expected of them.  This has been an ongoing discussion reflecting shared concerns,” Little said in the statement, adding that Panetta had directed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to examine how to “better foster a culture of stewardship” among the top leaders.

The findings of this review are due to Panetta within the next few weeks, according to statements, and will be published in a report to President Barack Obama on Dec. 1.

The most high-profile name to be tarnished by scandal is that of former CIA Director and Army four-star general David Petraeus, who resigned suddenly last Friday after admitting to an extramarital affair. Marine Gen. John Allen, who was nominated to take over as Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is now under investigation for involvement in the same scandal. The trial of Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair is ongoing at Fort Bragg, where he is charged with sexual harassment and assault of female subordinates. Navy Vice. Adm. Jeffrey Stavridis was also investigated briefly for suspected inappropriate travel expenses. And this week, Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward was stripped of a star and ordered to pay back $82,000 for extravagant travel spending, including flights taken with his wife as a passenger.

Some may wonder why this ethics review was not undertaken sooner.

Twenty Navy commanders have been fired for inappropriate conduct in 2012 alone, while 22 lost their posts amid scandal in 2011. Their offenses range from destruction of Navy equipment and drunken behavior to sexual harassment and physical assault of subordinates. While the Navy implemented new random alcohol testing earlier this year as a partial answer to this problem, a comprehensive look at the integrity of those in leadership has not been completed until now.

Meanwhile, a report released yesterday about alleged sexual misconduct at Lackland Air Force Base showed that at least eight commanders may be guilty of harassment and assault of almost 50 victims.

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