The U.S. Military's Ethics Crisis

February 13, 2014 Topic: EthicsState of the MilitarySecurity Region: United States

The U.S. Military's Ethics Crisis

Higher standards and higher scrutiny.

The nuclear test scandals, especially the Air Force's, are both more serious and more indicative of a more widespread problem. There, a zero-defects mentality created perhaps unreasonable pressure to excel on the exams and led to a culture where cheating came to be seen as justified. The practice was apparently longstanding and widely known by the community leadership. But, once it came to light, the Air Force and Pentagon senior leadership immediately went to work to fix the problem. Among the solutions? Encouraging more bottom-up reporting of problems.

It's a good thing, indeed, that the military's civilian and uniformed leadership is taking this recent spate of ethical lapses seriously. Constant vigilance and scrutiny is good for the profession. But it's worth keeping in mind how ingrained in the culture they already are.

James Joyner is an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow with the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council. These views are his own.

*Several other churches have similar requirements. Roman Catholic priests are highlighted here both because of their large number and because of the parallel ethical crises.

**There are circumstances under which is possible to be commissioned without a bachelor's degree, but they are rare.