From culture creep to flash flood
By Mark Alexander
On February 7, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel held a press conference to address recent high-profile news reports about the growing number of serious ethical and moral breakdowns within the officer and enlisted ranks.
The most recent reports alleged that generals and admirals had abused their position and/or resources, and current investigations by both the Navy and Air Force revealed group cheating on proficiency exams by officers and enlisted personnel in nuclear operations.
The frequency of these violations has been growing since the Clinton years, but what was considered a "culture creep" problem then has turned into a flash flood in the last four years, undermining the high ethical and moral integrity of our uniformed services across the board.
Of course, only a small number of uniformed personnel have willfully disregarded their oaths "to support and defend," and they are consequently being charged, but integrity degradation collaterally affects all military personnel.
Hagel said he is not sure of the scope and depth of the problem, but it was a grave concern of his SecDef predecessor, Leon Panetta.
In his prepared remarks, Hagel said of Barack Hussein Obama's recent DoD appointees, "In times of great change and challenge, our country must have the right kind of people in trusted positions of leadership. DoD and our country will rely on them, and on their integrity and their leadership."
Of course, by "the right kind of people in trusted positions of leadership," Hagel was limiting this reference to civilian leadership within DoD.
Turning to the pressing issue of ethics, Hagel said, "[S]ome of our people are falling short of these high standards and expectations. Ethics and character are absolute values that we cannot take for granted. They must be constantly reinforced. It is the responsibility of all of us -- all of us who ask for the trust and confidence of the American people -- to ensure these values are imbued in all our people and we all live up to them."
In the same vein, Hagel insisted, "Competence and character are not mutually exclusive. They are woven together. And an uncompromising culture of accountability must exist at every level of command. That must be practiced and emphasized by leadership at every level. Like in all institutions, it starts at the top. Ethics and character are the foundation of an institution and a society. They must be constantly emphasized at every level of command, in training, curriculum, and all phases of DoD in both the officer and the enlisted corps, top to bottom."
Of course, by "starts at the top" and "leadership at every level" and "top to bottom," Hagel was limiting this reference to the uniformed "officer and enlisted corps."
However, Hagel notably omitted the most obvious leadership failure in the entire chain of command -- Commander in Chief Barack Hussein Obama, who has distinguished himself above all previous CINCs as the most prolific purveyor of "The BIG Lie" in the history of the presidency. And his Cabinet heads have extended that distinction through virtually every senior executive service appointee overseeing the federal bureaucracies.
Now, recall that Chuck Hagel has a distinguished military service record as a Vietnam vet, a Sergeant (E-5) with the 9th Infantry Division. He earned the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Purple Hearts, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. (I emphasize earned, as opposed to Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry, whose awards were dispensed like Pez candy, and who remains "unfit for any office.")
I believe that Hagel knows well the primary source of the military leadership failure, as do most of his commanders, who are holding their noses until BO goes. However, none of them want to find themselves in front of a military Courts Martial tribunal for Uniformed Code of Military Justice Article 88 (criticizing the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, et al.) and/or Article 89 (showing disrespect of a superior commissioned officer) violations.
But the long list of senior retired military officers who endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, versus the handful of endorsements Obama received, spoke volumes about the lack of respect most senior officers have for their current CINC.
Most senior officers who have spoken candidly with me in recent years believe that what has been lost under Obama can be recovered under a reputable CINC, but that the cost of the damage done already, both in terms of morale and capabilities, will pose a difficult recovery, as was the case after the Carter years.
As the father of a future military officer, now a cadet in a service academy, I share those concerns on a visceral level. As a solution to the growing crisis of confidence within the uniformed services, Hagel said, "Over the next few weeks, Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin] Dempsey and I will be announcing actions that all of our services are taking to deal with this problem. I will assign to my senior staff a general officer who will report directly to me on issues related to military ethics, character, and leadership, and work directly with the service secretaries and the service chiefs. We will meet weekly so I can receive reports from DoD's senior leadership, including both officer and enlisted leadership, on the progress we're making."
Yeah, that should fix it.
For the record, there are already a plethora of DoD survey polls and assessments regarding morale and ethics, but none of them poll opinions on the CINC's job performance or confidence in his trustworthiness and character. If you think Obama's record low job approval and trustworthiness polling is bad among registered voters across the nation, I can assure you that his standing with civilians is far better than the ratings he would get from officer and enlisted military ranks -- if they were surveyed.
Among the members of our Patriot National Advisory Committee who offered their two cents on my topic this week were three Marine vets. In closing, I defer to their assessment of the current CINC.
One Marine officer, an OIF and OEF combat veteran, writes from Afghanistan, "My beef with Obama boils down to his lack of vision and strategy, and the fact he has surrounded -- insulated -- himself with a cadre of absolute amateurs and national security neophytes. The bill for his administration's ineptitude will come a few years from now, when the Faustian bargains he's made are revealed for what they are. We'll end up with major conflicts in the Levant (Eastern Med) and Africa. And we'll have a military with diminished capacity, an economy undermined by Obama's socialist agenda, struggling to deal with those threats. There are still enough service commanders who have the character and integrity to keep the ship afloat. But if Obama's policies remain in place and are given time to germinate, the consequences will be dire."
A second responded, "Obama uses our military for wars he doesn't believe in. He uses our uniformed ranks as a social laboratory. He uses disabled vets as patriotic props for his State of the Union stump speech. There is no comparison between the shared respect between military veterans Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and the warriors under their command -- and those who endured the commands of the draft-dodging Bill Clinton and the current community organizer acting as CINC. I will never forget Obama's remarks at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast, when he couldn't correctly pronounce a valorous sailor's rank, and repeatedly referred to him as a 'corpse-man.' That is an unfortunate metaphor summing up Obama's relationship with our Patriot warriors today."
And a third colleague, a retired Marine combat aviator, had this to say about the current state of military affairs under Obama: "My Dad [also a decorated Marine combat aviator] served from 1957 to 1987. When I was approaching the 20-year mark in my own service career, we talked about the current military state of affairs, and he said, 'Son, don't feel bad if you want to retire. It's not the same military you and I served in.' Since my retirement a few years back, I'm amazed at the decline in core values, which has accelerated in recent years. My father is rolling over in his Arlington grave."
To recap, Hagel said that "an uncompromising culture of accountability must exist at every level of command ... must be practiced and emphasized by leadership at every level" and "it starts at the top," with "all of us who ask for the trust and confidence of the American people."
One might infer that Obama is included in that reference.
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.