U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the recent spate of scandals involving top U.S. generals is not a systemic problem in the upper echelons of the military. However, he has ordered a review of the military's ethics training.
Investigations into the actions of several generals this year, including Afghanistan commander General John Allen and retired General David Petraeus, have prompted a review to find out why so many top officers have been accused of misconduct.
In an exclusive interview with the Voice of America, Defense Secretary Panetta suggests the problems are isolated, but says a cleanup is necessary.
“Obviously, I'm concerned about some of these recent events but I don't think we're dealing with a systemic problem. I think we're dealing with some individual issues that all kind of came together at the same time. Having said that, we're coming out of 10 years of war and I really do think that it's probably important that we begin to look again at how we can make sure that we maintain the highest ethical standards," he said.
Panetta's trip is intended to boost military ties with Southeast Asian nations as part of the Pentagon's new focus on the Pacific.
That involves building the defense capacity of partner nations, like Thailand.
At a time when the U.S. defense budget faces signficant cuts, there are questions as to whether Washington can make good on its commitments to its partners in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The first thing that I assure them of is that the United States has been the strongest military power in the world, that we are the strongest military power in the world, and that we will always be the strongest military power in the world; that even in light of the budget reductions that we've gone through that we've established a strategy for the United States in terms of our defense force for the 21st century that will make sure that we remain the strongest military force in the future," he said.
The U.S. is highlighting its policy in the coming days with a full-force presence in the region: Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are stopping here in Thailand and in Cambodia ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama next week.
Watch the full interview with Secretary Panetta