By Jon Harper
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is concerned that a series of ethical lapses by servicemembers might be indicators of a systemic problem within the U.S. military, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters at the Defense Department Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Navy leaders announced that staff members at the Navy’s nuclear propulsion school in Charleston, S.C. allegedly cheated on a written qualification exam for instructors who teach sailors how to operate nuclear reactors. Last month, the Air Force was rocked by revelations that nuclear launch officers were involved in a cheating scandal and an illegal narcotics scandal.
Kirby said Hagel is “deeply troubled” by these incidents. A 60-day review of the U.S. nuclear enterprise is underway, and service leaders are expected to develop an action plan to deal with personnel, management and cultural problems within the force.
In the press conference, Kirby pointed out that the military is still tackling the issue of sexual assault within the ranks, which has received a lot of attention from lawmakers alarmed by statistics released by the Pentagon indicating that thousands of servicemembers are sexually assaulted by their comrades each year.
Examples of bad behavior among General Officers prompted Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct an ethics review of the senior officer corps in 2012.
“If you just take a look at recent incidents, and I'm not just talking about in the last few weeks, last few months, even the last couple of years, I think he's generally concerned that there could be at least at some level a breakdown in ethical behavior and in the demonstration of moral courage,” Kirby said.