Ethics Review Looks at Perks for Top Brass

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The military has begun taking a hard look at the large staffs and personal assistants  afforded to senior leaders as part of an ethics review for general and flag officers ordered up after a series of scandals, Pentagon officials said Friday.

The review by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has come up with initial findings calling for more training on professional conduct for the upper ranks and also stressing the need for an overhaul of "the types of support senior leaders receive," said George Little, the chief Pentagon spokesman.

Dempsey's initial findings in his ongoing review were supported by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who briefed President Obama on them earlier this week, Little said.

Dempsey wanted more focus on "the personnel infrastructure surrounding general officers" to include the number of aides-de-camp, drivers, and secretaries assigned to assist top leaders in their duties, Little said.

Dempsey's review began before retired Army Gen. David Petraeus resigned in disgrace as director of the CIA over an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

The FBI investigation of Petraeus also ensnared Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of coalition troops in Afghanistan, for potentially "flirtatious and inappropriate" communications with Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite.

Allen's nomination to head the European Command has been held up with the Defense Department's Inspector General's office investigates the huge volume of email between Allen and Kelley.

Both Panetta and Dempsey have since expressed confidence in Allen while also calling for stricter standards for top officers and suggesting that the runaway egos of some in the upper ranks had to be taken down a notch.

Last month, Army Gen. William "Kip" Ward, former head of the Africa Command, was demoted to lieutenant general and ordered to repay $82,000 for abusing his authority with lavish travel arrangements and improper use of military transportation and staff. An Inspector General's report said Ward and his wife had staff pick up their laundry and do their shopping.

A separate Inspector General's report criticized Adm. James Stavridis, head of the European Command, for using his military aircraft for personal business, including a trip to a French wine-tasting society. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus later cleared Stavridis of wrongdoing.

In addition, more than 20 Navy officers have been removed from their commands this year for a wide range of ethical lapses.

Panetta and Dempsey have insisted that their focus on leadership standards was not motivated by the recent high-profile scandals, but rather by long-standing concerns over a possible erosion of values in the upper ranks after more than a decade at war.

"Beyond mere compliance with the rules, I also expect senior officers and civilian executives to exercise sound judgment in their stewardship of government resources and in their personal conduct," Panetta said in a statement on Ward's demotion.  "An action may be legally permissible but neither advisable nor wise."

Dempsey said last month that he began noticing disturbing trends last spring in the ethical standards of both the officer and enlisted ranks of the military.

"In response to these issues, I have communicated through a memorandum to every four-star in every service," Dempsey said. "I expressed my concern and encouraged their interest and their active involvement in helping us to understand what really is going on and what's not," Dempsey said in an interview with the American Forces Press Service.

Related Topics

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey
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