Military officers need more frequent ethics training, review finds
December 7th, 2012
05:50 PM ET

Military officers need more frequent ethics training, review finds

By Morgan Hitzig

The Pentagon has sent President Barack Obama the initial findings of a review of ethics standards for officers, a Pentagon spokesman said Friday.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducted the review after recent scandals and ethical misconduct involving high-ranking military officers.

The review has found the current level of ethics training to be "appropriate," but training should start earlier and continue to be reinforced more frequently throughout officer's careers, Little said. Currently, ethics training, which is conducted in "ethics modules," varies by service. This training is usually led by the Pentagon's legal counsel.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who ordered the review, discussed these preliminary findings with Obama during a regularly scheduled meeting earlier this week.

"There have been limited instances where general and flag officers have fallen short," spokesman George Little said Friday.

The most prominent instances include the recent scandal involving retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus, whose extramarital affair led to his resignation from his post as director of the CIA and an investigation into whether classified material was improperly shared with his paramour who was also his biographer.

That situation led to a separate investigation of the outgoing commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, for allegedly exchanging inappropriate e-mails with a Florida woman.

Gen. William "Kip" Ward, the former commander of Africa Command, was demoted over more than $80,000 in unauthorized travel expenses.

The initial findings also recommend that the level and type of support given to flag officers should be examined to ensure they are "necessary, sensible, and efficient."

"For example, generals in command have an 'aide-de-camp' which is one level of support. They often have additional staff to help with more routine activities," Little said. The review will examine whether the use of these additional aides could contribute to commanders abusing some of their authority.

Before the most recent instances, Dempsey called for "a rededication to the profession of arms" in a February 2012 white paper. "Renewing our commitment to the profession of arms is essential to ensure we maintain the best led and best trained force in the world," he wrote. "Leadership is the foundation of our profession."

Details of the review process remain limited because deliberations are conducted privately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The privacy is meant to encourage candor, Little said.


Filed under: Military
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Jim

    Gen. Martin Dempsey appears to be one of the good ones.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Reply
  2. QBsack

    Just think of all the resources available to this commander. If 30 000 emails require analysis, do I need to point where his preoccupations are (were)? Now imagine all the side trips he would have done (car rental, hotel bookings, flights, detours, etc), it's all mixed in his "operations" budget!! He stepped down only once he was caught, and can't imagine all there is that we don't know (who else caught his attention, and the likes...). His discretionary funds were most likely in the millions $$. As for her, my guess is that she started off as a capt and now has just been promoted to LCol, also as a reservist, she now has a full time employment at West Point.... can you guess who made those phone calls?? That's where I'm trying to point out.

    December 9, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply
  3. Birchwood

    We are seeing the tip of the iceberg sticking out of the water only... Tell us of all the special places the Officers have available to them, and what is there.......

    December 9, 2012 at 7:08 am | Reply
  4. QBsack

    My 1st comment did not make it (perhaps too long). Basically I was stating that the nature of the crime was oftenly downgraded to a simple affair between two consenting adults.... I meant to show that there are effects involved that are far more reaching than first impressions... I used the fact that Cdn Lt (Navy) Delisle (recently pleaded guilty of spying) was initially tilted by the affair of his wife... (it never specified if higher ranking officials were involved) but the point is same reasoning does not apply at this level. you need individuals that can and have a proven record of keeping their basic instincts under control. Consequences are just too great, it's not the same. There is much more at stakes.

    December 8, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  5. QBsack

    Just assume for a minute that Paula's husband was a soldier.... he would have been given assignments, taskings, overseas duties to ensure he was out of the way. Now that the cat is out, what in his mind would be the rightful thing to do??? At that level, you can't compare inconsequential "extramarital" affair.... the effects are far more reaching than anywhere else. I KNOW.

    December 8, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Reply
  6. Portland tony

    As some have pointed out, you can review the do's and don't(s) for command officers, but you can't "PowerPoint" morality into anyone. But then again, what kind of senior command officer do you want? One that wins wars or one that just "is by the book" and collects medals?

    December 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  7. NNN

    All the training in the world will not compensate for living role models. Since there aren't any, the military leadership corps is in serious decline. Ethics principles are just some irrelevant abstraction they only pay lip service to, and then only when it advances career standing. Ethics are for small unimportant people.

    December 8, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
  8. StanCaif

    Gen. David Petraeus, by his actions, truly put his country at risk! Surely his affair was intended, by both parties, to be private. Broadwell was not a spy or foreign agent during this time. Now the situation is completely changed. by coming out as he did, Gen. David Petraeus did nothing more than cover his own a*s. Broadwell is now the "spurned woman". Petraeus made her a target for every foreign espionage group operating in our country! When all this dies down in the media, Broadwell can be expected to be "harvested" for information. Be sure that Israel will be among the first to approach her. What foreign agency will be the first to threaten her family, even kidnap them to get what she knows. Broadwell may never "sell out for money", but more ruthless tactics can be used to get to her!

    December 8, 2012 at 7:53 am | Reply
  9. WareO

    Are you kidding me; every time something goes wrong we get the preverbal, lets train them even more. What concerns me more than the apoplectic attempt to stem the rise of misconduct in the ranks, no one is being held accountable, especially the higher ranking. They continue to retire with full benefits for the rest of their lives, although they handed out judgments against other military personnel which in effect ended their careers for doing the same deeds. What the pentagon needs to do is punish officers as they punish enlisted troops. I think then they will start to get the message. Stop hiding behind the officer and a gentleman mystique. The new training module is so broken, it’s scary; self paced online courses....wow. What happened to the classical sit down and listen to a professional who knew how to reach their intended audience? Mandated, self paced courses only do one thing, they check the block for annually training.

    December 8, 2012 at 5:55 am | Reply
  10. WareO

    IAre you kidding me; every time something goes wrong we get the preverbal, lets train them even more. What concerns me more than the apoplectic attempt to stem the rise of misconduct in the ranks, no one is being held accountable, especially the higher ranking. They continue to retire with full benefits for the rest of their lives, although they handed out judgments against other military personnel which in effect ended their careers for doing the same deeds. What the pentagon needs to do is punish officers as they punish enlisted troops. I think then they will start to get the message. Stop hiding behind the officer and a gentleman mystique. The new training module is so broken, it’s scary; self paced online courses....wow. What happened to the classical sit down and listen to a professional who knew how to reach their intended audience? Mandated, self paced courses only do one thing, they check the block for annually training.

    December 8, 2012 at 5:53 am | Reply
  11. helenecha

    Is it necessary? Military officers are well-educated, aren’t they?

    Go ahead military officers! Equip yourself with those ethics, or you'll risk being killed by them.

    December 8, 2012 at 3:07 am | Reply
  12. helenecha

    Ethics training? Oh, come on. Go ahead military officers! Equip those ethics, or you'll risk being killed by them.

    December 7, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Reply
  13. Quigley

    "Ethics Training"? What a joke this is! There is nothing at all ethical about butchering people, especially with those ungodly drones and Apache helicoptors we're currently using in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen and now we're contemplating jumping into Syria in order to kill yet more people there! It's those unscrupulous right-wing politicians in Washington who need ethics training. Then again, if the people were at all ethical, they wouldn't be such right-wingers!

    December 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Reply
    • Don

      The drone attacks are under Obama and last time I checked he isn't a rightwinger. The illegal war in Libya was under Obama and again last time I checked he isn't a rightwinger. Soldiers are train to fight and kill and you blame the rightwingers for being war hungry. When it is congress and the president that give the orders for war. (So that would be Obama) Forgetting all the fact about Obama. You are a radical far left moron and a poster child for the far left and totally bias. You are the problem in this country today.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  14. JohnParryJones

    More ethics training? Huh? The wrong men and women are getting the commissions in the first place. That's the problem.

    December 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Reply
  15. manny420

    No, what the military needs is less "check the block" training and more professional training conducted by real military ethicists. Right now service members, and especially the senior members that need the training, are told to go to a website, click buttons as quickly as possible until we get to the certificate slide. Training that has a lasting impression done in person, not by a combination of powerpoint slides and boring "next" buttons.

    December 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Reply
    • JA

      I do not believe that "all" officers require this training. I think that a target audience can be identified given the recent debacles.

      December 9, 2012 at 5:14 am | Reply

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