The Defense Department needs to hammer home to service members what it means to be members of the profession of arms, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said March 7 on the PBS “Newshour” program.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Judy Woodruff that ethical lapses such as the recent cheating scandals in the Air Force and Navy and the failures of some Army and Marine Corps officers are an urgent matter for senior department leaders.
Dempsey gave his best guess on what’s causing these lapses. “I think what happened … is we’ve gotten a little careless, maybe sloppy, over the last 10 years with the mechanisms that used to provide oversight, checks and balances – a safety net, if you will, for professionalism,” he said.
Military personnel became consumed with preparing for deployment, deploying, coming back and then getting ready to go again, he said. “We stopped sending young men and women to our professional military education when they should have gone,” Dempsey said. “We stopped doing things like command climate surveys. We got sloppy with contracting oversight.”
The military must “go back to the small disciplines that really make a difference in defining ourselves as a profession,” Dempsey said. “And we will.”
The chairman stressed that it is a small number of service members who have tarnished the profession. “We need to deal with those, but we also need to continue to reinforce what it means to be a professional,” he said.
Dempsey cautioned that the lapses run the gamut and cannot be treated the same way or lumped together. Some of the lapses are criminal, and others are ethical and behavioral issues, he said. Still others are “sophomoric cultural issues, and some of them are just plain stupidity, and each of those has to be dealt with in a different way,” he said.
“I understand the desire of some for me to be more public about this,” he added, “but don’t … underestimate the degree to which this has my attention internal to the profession.”
On the subject of sexual assault in the military, Dempsey stressed that the military must produce results. A bill that would have placed prosecution for sexual assaults in the military out of commanders’ hands was defeated in Congress. But a bare majority of those in the Senate -- the bill required a supermajority to pass -- voted for the bill.
President Barack Obama gave DOD leaders a year to review the situation and put in place corrective measures. “We’re nowhere near me declaring that we’ve turned the corner on this thing,” Dempsey said. Still, he said, some young women and men are coming forward to report assaults that occurred years ago, a sign that the propensity to report may be increasing. “And that seems to me to be a positive sign,” he added. “But we haven’t turned the corner yet. We’re working on it.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)