Cheating scandals have recently rocked the Air Force and Navy; and the resulting press coverage has, unfortunately, stained the honor and the integrity of the entire military. The majority of Americans have faith and pride in the men and women who selflessly serve this nation. The negative press doesn’t represent the overwhelming majority of service members.
Recent scandals may be an indication of a systemic problem within the forces. Service members are expected to have honor and integrity and are the only individuals associated with the government who have the trust and respect of the American people. But reports of unethical behavior can shake the people’s faith in an all-volunteer force and are unacceptable to those who serve and have served. Fears of growing ethics problems in the American Military should concern the public. For if the ethics and honor of our armed forces are compromised, the most powerful military in history will soon be no better than a collection of self-serving mercenaries.
Scandals recently reported by the media include the revelation that Malmstrom AFB missile launch officers were cheating on proficiency exams and using illegal drugs. The scandal involved at least 23 officers. Navy nuclear reactor instructors at the Charleston Nuclear Power Training Unit are alleged to have cheated on a written qualification exam for future instructors. The Army is investigating a possible large-scale fraud concerning Army National Guard recruitment incentives.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to focus on ethics training and has suggested that character should be a consideration for performance reports and promotions. He is concerned about the strong culture of accountability and responsibility that the public believes must exist in its armed forces. The Defense Secretary is concerned that an ethics lapse may represent a growing problem and be an indication of a breakdown of character in the military. The Secretary should look in the mirror and see who is responsible for implementing the policies that have created the situation.