U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says a recent series of ethical problems involving senior commanders are not signs of a systemic problem in the military.
In an exclusive interview with VOA Pentagon correspondent Luis Ramirez on Thursday, Panetta said that the military needs to re-evaluate its ethical training.
“We’re coming out of ten years of war and I really do think that it’s probably important that we begin to look again at how we can make sure that we maintain the highest ethical standards,” he said.
Currently, the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is under investigation for possibly inappropriate communication with a woman linked to the sex scandal involving former CIA director David Petraeus. The CIA chief, who resigned last week after admitting having an extra-marital affair, also is a former Army general.
The Department of Defense has been battered with a series of scandals involving high-ranking officers in the past year. Senior officers have been investigated for adultery, bigamy, sodomy, improper use of funds and other misconduct.
Panetta said that while the vast majority of the nation’s generals and admirals have had no problems, “we ought to look at the issue of making sure that our generals really do abide by the highest ethical standards.”
Also on Thursday, Panetta ordered all U.S. military commanders to review ethics training and improve it as needed. In a memo to the military’s top commander, he said that when ethics problems occur “they can be detrimental to the execution of our mission to defend the American people.”
Panetta spoke with VOA in Bangkok, while on a trip to Southeast Asia. The defense chief met with Thai officials on Thursday and on Friday flies to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a meeting with defense and foreign ministers ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit next week.
He met Tuesday and Wednesday with Australian officials, along with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.