By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan. 17, 2013 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is preparing to finish a study on ethics training in the military, a task he received from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to examine following some misjudgments, revelations and crimes by a few senior military leaders.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and the rest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are finishing up work on recommendations, but he said he hopes this is a work in progress.
“I don’t want this to be a one-off, take 60 days, slap our hands together and declare victory,” he said. “I think we have to continue to learn about the profession.”
Dempsey said he would like to put some of these recommendations in place and review them again about six months later.
The chairman noted that the service chiefs themselves are working this issue.
“We’re not out-sourcing this,” Dempsey said.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff will write a memo to the secretary about their conclusions, present an internal tasking on aspects the chiefs can change and present a request to the secretary for changes he can authorize.
There will be changes to military education and to the way the military evaluates, assesses, selects and promotes, Dempsey said.
“The idea is to review the conclusions, decide what is working and what isn’t, educate the force, [and] encourage the force and its leaders to have a conversation,” he said. “I want the process to be a dynamic and interactive continuum of studies, so we can be the best leaders that we can be.”
Dempsey has been interested in what makes the military a profession since he joined. As a major at the Army’s Command and General Staff College on Fort Leavenworth, Kan., he did a paper based on Robert E. Lee’s quote that “duty is the sublimest word in our language.”
So he isn’t a “Johnny-come-lately” to this party. “I want these values to be less abstract and more real to people,” he said.
It makes sense to study ethics in the military profession, but Dempsey hurries to say that the profession is in good shape. He does not anticipate a sea change on ethics, rather a small course correction to make the military better.
“We have to require leaders to understand and think about their profession,” he said. “If you don’t, then you migrate pretty quickly into the … military being just another job.”
The discussion of that goes to the distinction that must be made between competence and character. This is what sets a profession apart. A profession cares about both competence and character, and it wants to keep them in balance, Dempsey said.
“In times of conflict, it may be that we tend to overvalue competence and undervalue character, and we need to watch that,” he said.