More Officer Ethics Training Urged by Pentagon’s Dempsey

Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has recommended that U.S. military officers get more frequent ethics training.

“While we have appropriate ethics training programs in place for senior leaders, we need to start earlier and reinforce that training more frequently in an officer’s career,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters today, citing preliminary recommendations by Dempsey.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asked Dempsey last month to review ethics training after several senior military officers were alleged to have engaged in misconduct and misuse of their positions. Little has said the inquiry wasn’t related to the extramarital affair that led to the resignation of David Petreaus, a retired Army general, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Dempsey also recommended that the Defense Department review the level and type of support staff and aides that are assigned to military general and flag officers, Little said.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last month that top military officers get a “sense of entitlement” and “great power” that can skew their judgment. Unlike civilian officials, Gates said top officers get support staff that help with everything from “fixing meals” to yardwork.

Panetta has conveyed the initial recommendations to President Barack Obama, while the Joint Chiefs continue to weigh the recommendations, according to Little, who said no deadline has been set to complete the review.

General Demoted

Last month, Panetta demoted the former head of the U.S. Africa Command, Army General William Ward, who was found to have spent thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on unofficial travel and other unauthorized expenses. He will be forced to retire as a three-star lieutenant general and repay the government about $82,000, the Pentagon said. Ward has denied wrongdoing.

Also in a report released last month, the Pentagon’s inspector general said that Admiral James Stavridis, who heads the U.S. European Command, violated rules by accepting gifts from foreign governments without reporting or disposing of them and letting family members travel with him on military aircraft without reimbursing the government at full coach fares. The Navy rejected that finding, saying there was no “personal misconduct” and only “shortcomings in administrative procedures” that have been remedied.

The Pentagon’s inspector general also is investigating whether General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, sent inappropriate e-mails to Jill Kelley, the Florida woman whose complaint to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about harassing e-mails began the inquiry that disclosed Petraeus’s affair.

In a memo asking Dempsey to review officer ethics training, Panetta said violations “have the potential to erode public confidence in our leadership and in our system for the enforcement of our high ethical standards.Worse, they can be detrimental to the execution of our mission to defend the American people.”

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