Military Ethics Called Into Question

September 11, 2015

Bribery, gambling, misuse of government funds, sexual misconduct: not the things you think about when it comes to military officers.

After a series of embarrassing scandals over the past few years, Congress tasked DoD with reviewing how it addresses professional development and ethical behavior. Unfortunately, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), DoD has failed to implement several necessary changes.

The biggest impediment to change is that the department did not develop metrics to measure the effectiveness of the program. Without adequate metrics, GAO says DoD has no idea if its efforts are working, much less warranted.

According to the report, “Without identifying information sources and developing intermediate goals and performance metrics that are clear, quantifiable, and objective … decision makers in DoD and Congress will not have full visibility into the department’s progress on professionalism-related issues.”

Other issues identified in the report include a failure of the Navy and Marine Corps to conduct 360 evaluations on all general and flag officers and for the Army and Air Force to require command climate assessments in performance reviews.

The questions remain: Are today’s military officers less ethical? Has the longest period of sustained conflict eroded military leaders’ ability to distinguish right from wrong?

“Without reliable data,” said Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret), MOAA’s Director of Government Relations, “there may literally be no way to tell.”