“…by a few senior military leaders,” is how a January 17 press release from the Department of Defense describes the reason behind a study on ethics training in the military conducted by the Joint Chiefs. The task was mandated by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
What’s interesting about the official press release is the apparent secrecy surrounding it.
We don’t know when the study was tasked. We don’t know who the “few senior military leaders” involved are. We don’t know what the “misjudgments, revelations and crimes” are. We don’t even know where the interview of Joint Chiefs Charman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey occurred that is the basis for the presss release. (It is described only as “aboard a U.S. military aircraft.”)
We don’t know what any of the recommendations to Secretary Panetta are.
This is what we do know:
Somewhere aboard a U.S. military aircraft the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs told a military reporter that some senior “leaders” did some bad things, during some period of time, at some place or places, and that as a result, some recommendations will be made to the Secretary of Defense. Perhaps before he resigns and the new SecDef takes his place.
Oh yes, and we know that the Chairman of the Joint Chief wants to review the results of whatever recommendations are put in place, in about six months.
“I don’t want this to be a one-off, take 60 days, slap our hands together and declare victory,” [Dempsey] said. “I think we have to continue to learn about the profession.”
With all due respect, sir, might one of those things you learn about the profession be–transparency?
This is ethics we’re talking about here, and failures in leadership, not the revelation of the nuclear codes. Yet clearly there is a wagon-circling mentality at work: language that would even hint at discipline or removal of a nonperforming “leader” is conspicuous by its absence. And while the Privacy Act may prevent the release of some personally identifying details, it doesn’t prevent the release of at least some substantive information that would inform Americans of the state of the character of their military.
Instead, “We have to require leaders to understand and think about their profession,” [Dempsey] said. “If you don’t, then you migrate pretty quickly into the … military being just another job.”
“Just another job”? Where “misjudgments, revelations and crimes” are secret? It sounds like Dempsey is talking about Wall Street, not a fighting force. The article continues:
“The discussion of that goes to the distinction that must be made between competence and character. This is what sets a profession apart. A profession cares about both competence and character, and it wants to keep them in balance, Dempsey said.
“’In times of conflict, it may be that we tend to overvalue competence and undervalue character, and we need to watch that,’” he said.
“Watching” seems to be about as far as the Chiefs have been willing to go–in terms of both competence and character. (See the entry, “General Failure” of January 9, 2013, below.)
Joint Chiefs Finishing Study on Ethics Training, Chairman Says
ADDED, January 23, 2011: According to a report from the Inspector General, USMC General John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, has been cleared of “allegations of professional misconduct” while serving in that position. This clears the way for Allen to be confirmed as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command.
On Dec. 3, the Senate confirmed Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., assistant Marine Corps commandant, as the next commander of ISAF and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
According to the American Forces Press Service, SECDEF Panetta “has complete confidence in the continued leadership of General Allen, who is serving with distinction in Afghanistan.”
UPDATE: President Accepts Allen’s Request for Retirement
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2013 – President Barack Obama today accepted a request by Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen to retire from the military to address health issues within his family.
In a written statement, Obama said he spoke with Allen today and expressed deep personal appreciation for his “extraordinary service” in command of coalition and U.S. forces in Afghanistan and in his decades of Marine Corps service.