Hagel Says Ethical Scandals Are a ‘Growing Problem’ in the Military

U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Mota

AA Font size + Print

The defense secretary is worried that the recent spate of ethical scandals in the military is just the tip of the iceberg. By Stephanie Gaskell

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is worried that after more than a decade of fighting two wars, the nation’s military is under a different kind of stress that’s leading to a loss of “moral character.”

One scandal after another has popped up in the news. An Air Force general was fired for drinking and misconduct during a trip to Russia. An officer in charge of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention program was arrested for attacking a woman outside an Arlington, Va., strip club. A group of nuclear missile operators were suspended for cheating on proficiency exams. Now the Navy is investigating several trainers at its nuclear propulsion program for cheating.

Ethical misconduct is nothing new in the military, but Hagel worried that these cases are just part of a growing trend. “I think he definitely sees this as a growing problem, and he’s concerned about the depth of it,” Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby said Wednesday during a briefing at the Pentagon.

“As a department, we don’t fully know right now what we’re grappling with here,” Kirby said. “Not knowing something like that is something to be concerned about.”

(Related: Military Focuses on Ethics Training Amid Scandals)

The misconduct is now a main topic at Hagel’s weekly meetings with his top staff. “This issue has his full attention,” Kirby said. “Secretary Hagel also believes there must be more urgency behind these efforts and that military leaders, DOD leaders must take a step back and put renewed emphasis on developing moral character and moral courage in our force.”

And whether more than 13 years of war is playing a role is something Hagel is also worried about. “He believes that that is a factor that should be looked at,” Kirby said. “It’s a force that’s been through a lot, seen a lot — incredibly resilient — but has been under stress and strain for a long time.”

And like former Defense Secretary Robert Gates did back in 2008 when he fired the secretary and the chief of staff of the Air Force over poor oversight of the nation’s nuclear weapons, Hagel might just fire some top-level leaders. “Secretary Hagel is not afraid to hold people accountable,” Kirby said. “If it requires holding people accountable, very senior people accountable, he’ll do it.” 

In the meantime, Hagel has ordered an internal review of the nuclear force and requested an action plan within 60 days. An independent review of the nuclear enterprise will be led by former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Welsh and retired Adm. John Harvey, former commander of Fleet Forces Command.

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • GBC Issue Brief: Supply Chain Insecurity

    Federal organizations rely on state-of-the-art IT tools and systems to deliver services efficiently and effectively, and it takes a vast ecosystem of organizations, individuals, information, and resources to successfully deliver these products. This issue brief discusses the current threats to the vulnerable supply chain - and how agencies can prevent these threats to produce a more secure IT supply chain process.

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.