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Military Focuses on Ethics Training Amid Scandals

Military schools will now have 'ethics units' as the services grapple with a string of high-profile scandals. By Sara Sorcher and Jordain Carney

Don't be surprised that the military is starting to focus more on ethics training.

A series of high-profile—and, at times, borderline ridiculous—scandals have dominated the headlines about the military services in recent months. The Air Force's cheating imbroglio has ensnared nearly half the nuclear-missile crew at one key base; the Navy's sex-and-bribery brouhaha keeps getting wider and weirder. And a massive fraud investigation tied to an Army National Guard recruiting program will be unveiled at a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

Military education schools will now sport "ethics units," as top officers review proper procedures for travel and accepting gifts, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey told The Wall Street Journal. And promotions will more strongly consider officers' characters.

Before that's all done, though, you may find our handy-dandy guide to recent military scandals pretty useful.


Recruiting Fraud Scandal:

It's one of the biggest fraud investigations in the Army's history. That's the word from Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat whose subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight will reveal details about an emerging scandal in a public hearing Tuesday.

The Recruiting Assistance Program was once considered to be among the most successful recruiting programs in U.S. military history. Created at the height of the Iraq War in 2005, the program paid National Guardsmen, retirees, and civilians for their referrals of friends and family who joined up. The program was so successful, it expanded to include the Army and its reserve corps, but it was canceled in 2012.

Soldiers serving as recruiters (or recruiting assistants) were not meant to get the referral bonuses. Today, more than 800 soldiers are being investigated for unfairly profiting off that system, according to USA Today, and getting improper bonuses said to total in the "tens of millions." We'll hear more in Tuesday's hearing. Lt. Gen. William Grisoli, director of the Army Staff, will testify; so will Maj. Gen. David Quantock, commanding general for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and Army Corrections command. Auditors and former officials from the National Guard will also speak.


Nuclear Force Scandals:

Nearly half of the 190 officers at an Air Force base in Montana are temporarily suspended for allegedly cheating on a monthly proficiency exam—or for knowing about the cheating. That would have been a bad enough P.R. nightmare for the Air Force. But the incident is only the latest for an increasingly battered nuclear-missile crew, amid questions about its morale and security.

The alleged cheating was uncovered as investigators probed illegal drug use in the nuke force—and the news, unfortunately for military media professionals everywhere, broke around the same time that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited one of three bases responsible for the country's nuclear missiles. Air Force officials said last month that 10 officers have been tied to that investigation.

(Read more: Half of Nuke Crew at Air Force Base Tied to Cheating Scandal)

There was also trouble at the top. The Air Force fired Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, who oversaw this country's land-based nuclear missiles, in October. The Inspector General outlined his "improper conduct" while part of a delegation to Moscow. That's putting it mildly. Carey, apparently, boldly declared that Pentagon leadership didn't support him, danced and interacted with foreign women, and was publicly drunk—to the point that witnesses worried about his ability to remain upright. He also made comments "regarding lovely ladies" that troubled some of the officials Carey was with.


Contracting Fraud:

A wealthy Malaysian contractor known as "Fat Leonard" is accused of bribing Navy officials with cash, trips, and prostitutes—in exchange for shipping information. It's a bizarre scandal revealing a complex, and allegedly fraudulent web, between Glenn Defense Marine Asia CEO Leonard Glenn Frances and the Navy, which has already cost two senior Navy officials and an NCIS agent their jobs and promises to sweep up more.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is now investigating the affair, which the Justice Department terms a "multi-national, multi-year, multi-million dollar fraud of the United States Navy." It is simply the latest twist in one of the Navy's biggest scandals in recent years. Besides the three arrests of the service members (and Fat Leonard), four other Navy officials are being investigated. But before the Christmas holiday, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said he expected more disclosures will come from the ongoing investigation.


Corpse-Defiling Scandal:

One of the ugliest incidents in Marine Corps history isn't over yet.

The Marine Corps is still wrestling with the ripple effects from a video depicting four Marine snipers in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban insurgents, an image that set off widespread protests across Afghanistan when it was published online in 2012. The Marines who appeared in the video pleaded guilty to a raft of charges; others received nonjudicial punishments. As Foreign Policy recently reported, however, an investigation into whether senior officers "attempted to cover up their own misconduct while prosecuting war crimes in Afghanistan has suddenly roared back to life."

A top civilian official, John Fitzgerald, is now looking into whether top Marine brass "unlawfully concealed crucial evidence in the cases."

The Marine Corps is also investigating what's behind dozens of newly surfaced photos depicting Marines defiling bodies of dead Iraqi insurgents. The photos, according to entertainment site TMZ, were said to have been taken in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.