Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review ethics training in the aftermath of high-profile scandals involving senior officers.
"This Department can only be effective with leadership that exemplifies both professional excellence and sound, ethical judgment," Mr. Panetta said in a memo to the Joint Chiefs. "This is particularly true for our general and flag officers, who both lead by example and enforce ethical standards on those whom they lead."
The ethics review will take place over the next few weeks, and a report will be issued to President Obama by Dec. 1. In addition, Mr. Panetta will meet with senior civilian and uniformed leaders at an upcoming Secretary's Leadership Council.
Mr. Panetta signed the memo Wednesday. It was first provided to reporters traveling with him in Bangkok, where he is meeting Thai officials in advance of Mr. Obama's trip there next week.
The call for an ethics review comes after David H. Petraeus, a retired Army four-star general, resigned last week as CIA director after admitting he had an extramarital affair. But Pentagon press secretary George Little said the idea for a review had been in the works for several months.
Four other generals have been investigated for ethical violations this year.
Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, is being investigated after thousands of emails between him and a Florida socialite were uncovered during the FBI probe that revealed Mr. Petraeus' affair. Defense officials have deemed the emails between Gen. Allen and Jill Kelley, a married mother of three, as "flirtatious" and "potentially inappropriate."
Army Gen. William "Kip" Ward this week was demoted and ordered to pay $84,000 in restitution for misusing government resources during his tenure as chief of U.S. Africa Command. He was stripped of a star and reduced to lieutenant general.
Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair faces charges of forcible sodomy and wrongful sexual conduct at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan.
Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly is retiring after a Pentagon inspector general investigation found he bullied his staff. He was the chief of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
Mr. Panetta's memo did not mention any officers by name.
Dozens of other lower-ranking officers also have been relieved this year, including more than 20 from the Navy.
On Wednesday, the Air Force released the results of its internal investigation of instructors at the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas engaging in inappropriate relationships with trainees, and in some cases, sexually assaulting them.
These high-profile cases have left black marks on the military, but ethical misconduct by senior officers is a bigger problem than has been publicized, according to a defense official who is not authorized to speak on the record.
"You're only seeing this because of the prominence of the individual," the official said of the Petraeus case.
Twenty to 40 cases of senior military and civilian misconduct are substantiated by the Pentagon inspector general each year, the official said.
A semi-annual Pentagon inspector general report showed that for the first half of fiscal 2012, 186 cases were investigated and 31 cases were substantiated for ethical misconduct by a senior civilian or military official.
"These cases count the most because these are the role models for our troops," the defense official said.
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