By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2014 – Cheating on proficiency tests at an Air Force missile base and at the Navy’s nuclear propulsion school have Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel concerned that systemic issues may be threatening the health of the force and they have his full attention, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
"He is concerned about the health of the force and the health of the strong culture of accountability and responsibility that Americans have come to expect from their military," Kirby told Pentagon reporters.
Surveys have shown that the military is among the most respected professions in the United States, and these ethical lapses work against that perception. In his weekly meeting with the service secretaries and service chiefs, the secretary told them that ethical behavior will be on the agenda for these meetings from now on, Kirby said. The secretary believes military and Defense Department leaders must take a step back and put renewed emphasis on developing moral character and courage in the force, he added.
Hagel gave the service leaders those marching orders just days after Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James reported systemic problems with ICBM launch officers, Kirby said, but before the Navy reported instances of cheating on tests at the Navy Nuclear Propulsion School in Charleston, S.C.
Senior defense leaders have begun work on a plan to fix any systemic issues, the press secretary said. A group co-chaired by officials from the Joint Staff and the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy is set to deliver a report to Hagel within 60 days. "He has made it clear he would certainly welcome the work sooner than that," Kirby said.
In addition, Hagel has asked retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch and retired Navy Adm. John Harvey to lead an independent review of the military’s nuclear enterprise. "They will offer their views on the quality and effectiveness of the action plan, and they will also provide their insights and recommendations on addressing any systemic personnel problems," the admiral said.
Hagel is concerned about what he doesn't know about the problem, Kirby added.
“What worries the secretary,[is] that maybe he doesn't have the full grasp of the depth of the issue. And he wants to better understand it and to the degree that there are systemic issues, he wants to attack them."
Kirby gave reporters a shorthand definition for what moral courage and moral character mean in the military. "That's doing the right thing when nobody is looking," he said. "That's treating people the right way even when they can't do anything for you. It's about the basic ideas of strapping on this uniform every day. And it's what, frankly, keeps a lot of us in."