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:

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • Military Readiness: Ensuring Readiness with Analytic Insight

    To determine military readiness, decision makers in defense organizations must develop an understanding of complex inter-relationships among readiness variables. For example, how will an anticipated change in a readiness input really impact readiness at the unit level and, equally important, how will it impact readiness outside of the unit? Learn how to form a more sophisticated and accurate understanding of readiness and make decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • 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.