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Scandals Highlight Ethics Lapses in Military

  • Chris Simkins

Several recent scandals involving members and former members of the U.S. military have prompted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to order a review of ethics-training programs. Concern continues to grow about poor behavior by some senior officers.

Military training continues at San Antonio-Lackland Air Force Base in Texas - still reeling from one of the military's worst sexual abuse scandals. An Air Force investigation found at least 48 female students were sexually assaulted by instructors between October 2010 and June 2011. More than 25 officers and trainers have been investigated and many face criminal charges.

The case is among several in which U.S. military officers have been investigated, demoted or fired for poor behavior and sexual improprieties in the past year. Air Force General Edward Rice said the military has to lead in fixing the problems.

"This is a challenge and a problem throughout our society. We hold ourselves to a very high standard in the military and the Air Force, as we should. And so, because this is a challenge everywhere, there is no excuse at all for us not to get our arms around this and do better than we have in the past," said Rice.

The Air Force scandal comes as the NATO commander in Afghanistan, Marine General John Allen, is being investigated for sending allegedly inappropriate emails to a Florida woman.

The Allen investigation began after the FBI found the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, retired general David Petraeus, was having an extramarital affair. The scandal forced him to resign as CIA director.

Retired Air Force Colonel Chuck Summers said bad decisions and technology got the best of Allen and Petraeus.

"People used to have to physically find you and take a picture of you, but now with computers and smart phones everything can be found out. So you are crazy if you start trying to have a flirtatious affair using a computer or smart phone," said Summers.

Recently, General Jeffrey Sinclair was charged with adultery and sexual assault against several female subordinates. And the former head of the U.S. Africa command, General William "Kip" Ward, was demoted and resigned after illegally spending $80,000 of government funds.

Summers said he is troubled by military leaders who abuse their authority.

"I think commanders have to realize how much power they have and that people just jump at their every command. People want to please commanders because that is how they get promoted. But also they have to be wary that people out there for whatever reason are looking over their shoulders trying to catch them. Any little mistake they make they become vulnerable to criticism and ridicule," said Summers.

Analysts say poor behavior by a few senior officers has negatively impacted the U.S. military and cast a dark shadow on one of America's most respected institutions.
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