* Panetta concerned over "lapses" among US military leaders
* He is due to present Obama with interim report by Dec. 1
By Phil Stewart
BANGKOK, Nov 15 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
has ordered the U.S. military's top brass to look for any gaps
in ethics training as he lamented lapses in judgment by officers
that could "erode public confidence in our leadership," a
Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday.
Questions over the conduct of U.S. generals has come into
sharp focus over the past week as retired General David Petraeus
lost his job as CIA director over an affair and General John
Allen, who leads the Afghan war effort, was placed under
investigation for potentially inappropriate emails with a
A Pentagon spokesman told reporters traveling with Panetta
in Thailand that development of the defense secretary's
initiative pre-dated the latest scandals.
Lesser-known U.S. military leaders have come under scrutiny
recently, with one general demoted by Panetta for wasting
taxpayer money and another facing accusations including forcible
sodomy of a subordinate.
"The vast majority of our senior officers takes this
responsibility (of leadership) seriously and acts in accord with
ethics regulations and training," Panetta said in a memo to the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
"Yet, as has happened recently, when lapses occur, they have
the potential to erode public confidence in our leadership. ...
Worse, they can be detrimental to the execution of our mission
to defend the American people."
Panetta, in the memo dated Nov. 14, called on Dempsey to
work with other military leaders to review existing ethics
training programs "to determine if they are adequate to address
the concerns I have identified."
He said he would present President Barack Obama an interim
report by Dec. 1 with initial results of the review and any
recommendations developed by that time.
The memo did not list any specific lapses but on Wednesday
Panetta announced he was demoting retiring Army General William
Ward and would seek to recoup $82,000 in expenses from him.
Ward was accused of misconduct in travel, misuse of military
aircraft and misuse of staff. In one case, Ward took his
official plane to Bermuda for an overnight refueling stop with
his wife, investigators found.
In another case, Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, a
27-year Army veteran based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, is
accused of 26 violations of military law including forcible
sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, possessing pornography while
deployed and conduct unbecoming of an officer.
The charges stem from allegations of inappropriate behavior
toward four female subordinates and a civilian over the past
five years. Sinclair is also accused of claiming more than
$4,000 in personal travel as military business expenses.
Panetta said he knows of no other military officials beyond
Allen drawn into the investigation of Petraeus.
Panetta said in his memo that the Pentagon has strong rules
in place setting standards for personal conduct "and prohibit
misuse of taxpayer resources." He said it is not enough to
merely comply with rules, saying military leaders also need to
exercise sound judgment.
"An action may be legally permissible but neither advisable
nor wise," he wrote.