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Colorado Springs Conference Finds Military Ethics Woes Hinge on Trust

The Pentagon's newest effort to clean up misconduct in the ranks started with a simple question last week at the Air Force Academy.

Ethics officers and others identified a key issue as a lack of trust in leadership.

"How do we get them to trust us?" Navy Capt. Scott Smith asked to kick off the two-day Department of Defense Professionalism Summit.

Rear Adm. Peg Klein said that by bringing 30 leaders from across the military together, the Pentagon wanted to cross-pollinate budding efforts to strengthen ethics from each of the services.

So far, the ethics campaign has resulted in a series of programs, but figuring out what works remains on the to-do list.

"That's really hard to know," she said.

Tackling that question and getting the services to share their best programs was why Klein brought the ethics bosses to Colorado Springs.

"We want you to put your great minds to work," she said.

One of the leaders in attendance was Frank Di Giovanni, the Defense Department's training boss.

"When you look at how you change the culture in an organization as a commander, it's not that easy," he said.

There are signs of progress, though, Klein said. The admiral cited the Army and the Marine Corps for their work. The Army has started an effort to train enlisted leaders to spot and stamp out bad behavior with the online "Not in My Squad" program.

The Army program uses videos and virtual reality to put young leaders in an environment to make tough choices and learn from mistakes.

The Marines got plaudits for making it easier for leaders to assess culture within units with a 37-question survey.

The Colorado Springs conference, the first of its kind, was expected to spawn a wider discussion of issues, too.

Via video, the conference attendees got to hear from Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the joint chiefs, who told them a lot of work remains.

"We need to emphasize among military professionals the concept of trust," Selva said.

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