BANGKOK Citing a string of ethical lapses by senior military officers, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review ethics training and to brainstorm on ways to steer officers away from trouble.
In a memorandum to Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Panetta made no explicit reference to the David Petraeus sex scandal, which also has ensnared the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.
Panetta’s press secretary, George Little, said the memo was the product of internal Pentagon discussions that began before Petraeus announced he was resigning as CIA director because of an extramarital affair.
“I will emphasize very strongly that the secretary was going to embark on this course long before the matters that have come to light over the past week,” Little said. He added that Panetta believes the vast majority of senior military officers serve with distinction and in accordance with ethical standards.
Panetta mentioned no specific cases of officer misconduct but noted in his memo to Dempsey that, “as has happened recently, when lapses occur, they have the potential to erode public confidence in our leadership and in our system for the enforcement of our high ethical standards. Worse, they can be detrimental to the execution of our mission to defend the American people.”
A number of senior officers have faced disciplinary action this year for misconduct, including Gen. William “Kip” Ward, who was reduced in rank from four stars to three this week after investigators determined that he had misused government funds for lavish spending while commanding U.S. Africa Command.
Earlier, Panetta said Thursday that he knows of no other senior U.S. military officers being linked to the Petraeus investigation.
“I am not aware of any others that could be involved in this issue at the present time,” he said, adding that he wanted the American public to understand that the vast majority of military officers serve ethically and with distinction.
“One thing I do demand,” he said, “is that those who seek to protect this country operate by the highest ethical standards.”