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Panetta Orders Military Ethics Review

by VOA News November 15, 2012

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Pentagon needs to re-evaluate how well military officers are trained to meet "the highest ethical standards," but that recent disclosures of questionable actions by senior American commanders do not indicate any "systemic problem" in the armed forces.

Panetta briefly discussed the ethics issues at an open news conference in Bangkok Thursday. He spoke much more fully in an exclusive interview with our Pentagon correspondent, Luis Ramirez, in which he defended the quality of leadership throughout the U.S. military.

In the interview, Panetta expressed concern about the scandal that has swirled about the former director of the CIA and the top U.S. general in Afghanistan. He said the past week's news developments were based "some individual issues that ... came together at the same time."

The defense secretary also said he is not aware that any other military officer or senior official was involved in the actions that led to the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus, or the expanding investigation that has put General John Allen, the Afghan commander, under scrutiny.

"We're coming out of 10 years of war and I really do think that it's probably important that we begin to look again at how we can make sure that we maintain the highest ethical standards," Panetta said.

"We've got about 1,000 general officers and flag officers, and there's no question the vast majority of them obviously abide by the highest standards and exercise really the best leadership that you can imagine of any military force on Earth," he said. "But having said that, I do think — and I've talked to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs [of Staff] about this — that we ought to look at the issue of making sure that our generals really do abide by the highest ethical standards."

General Allen remains the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan while investigators consider what has been termed his possibly inappropriate communication with a woman linked to the scandal involving Petraeus, who resigned as CIA chief last week after admitting having an extra-marital affair. Panetta said Thursday that he has "tremendous confidence" in Allen's leadership in Afghanistan.

Petraeus also served in Afghanistan when he was an Army general, and his military career is known as one of the most illustrious in modern U.S. history. He retired from the military when President Barack Obama nominated him to lead the CIA — where the former general succeeded Panetta.

The Department of Defense has been battered by a series of scandals involving high-ranking officers during the past year. Senior officers have been investigated for adultery, bigamy, sodomy, improper use of funds and other misconduct. Panetta emphasized that the vast majority of the nation's generals and admirals have had no such problems.

The American defense chief met with Thai officials on Thursday. On Friday he flies to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a meeting with defense and foreign ministers ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit next week.

Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks in Australia on Tuesday and Wednesday with top officials of the Canberra government, reviewing the close cooperation between the two countries.

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