Concerned that ethical problems inside the military might run deeper than he realized, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered service leaders Wednesday to add urgency to their drive to ensure “moral character and moral courage” in a force emerging from more than a decade of war.
Almost a year into his tenure as Pentagon chief, Hagel had been worried by a string of ethics scandals that produced a wave of unwelcome publicity for the military. But in light of new disclosures this week, including the announcement of alleged cheating among senior sailors in the nuclear Navy, Hagel decided to push for a fuller accounting.
Last month, the Air Force revealed it was investigating widespread cheating on proficiency tests among nuclear-missile launch officers in Montana, and numerous senior officers in all branches of the armed forces have been caught in embarrassing episodes of personal misbehavior, inside and outside the nuclear force. The Air Force also is pursuing a drug-use investigation, and a massive bribery case in California has ensnared six Navy officers so far.
At the same time, hundreds of soldiers and others are under criminal investigation in what the Army describes as a widespread scheme to take fraudulent payments and kickbacks from a National Guard recruiting program.
The steady drumbeat of one military-ethics scandal after another has caused many to conclude that the misbehavior reflects more than routine lapses.
“He definitely sees this as a growing problem,” Hagel’s chief spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, told a Pentagon news conference Wednesday after Hagel met privately with the top uniformed and civilian officials of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.