The purge continues. This time from the U.S. Army.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of U.S. soldiers forced out of the Army because of crimes or misconduct has soared in the past several years as the military emerges from a decade of war that put a greater focus on battle competence than on character.
Data obtained by The Associated Press shows that the number of officers who left the Army due to misconduct more than tripled in the past three years. The number of enlisted soldiers forced out for drugs, alcohol, crimes and other misconduct shot up from about 5,600 in 2007, as the Iraq war peaked, to more than 11,000 last year.
“I wouldn’t say lack of character was tolerated in (war) theater, but the fact of the last 10 or 12 years of repeated deployments, of the high op-tempo – we might have lost focus on this issue,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s top officer, told the AP last week. “Sometimes in the past we’ve overlooked character issues because of competence and commitment.”
His comments mirror concerns aired by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, several times in recent months. The ethical lapses, Dempsey said, can be attributed in some ways to 10 years at war when the military failed to properly balance character and competence.
Over the past year, a series of high profile scandals – from sexual assault and damaging leadership to mistreatment of the enemy and unauthorized spending – has dogged the military, leading to broad ethics reviews and new personnel policies.
Those scandals included the demotion of Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward for lavish, unauthorized spending; sexual misconduct charges against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair; and episodes of gambling and drinking by other general officers.
More recently, there have been cheating allegations against Air Force nuclear missile launch officers and a massive bribery case in California that has implicated six Navy officers. Examples of troop misconduct include Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters and soldiers posing with body parts of Afghan militants.
“We’re paying a lot more attention to it now. We are not tolerant at all of those showing a lack of character,” Odierno said. “We have to refocus ourselves so we get to where we think is the right place.”
In 2010, 119 Army officers were forced to leave the service because of misconduct; that number was fairly consistent with the annual totals since 2000. Last year the number was 387.
As the Army began to reduce its ranks in recent years toward a goal of 490,000 in 2015, leaders have been more willing and able to get rid of problem soldiers. That is likely to escalate because the latest plan would reduce the Army to 420,000 later in the decade if deep, automatic budget cuts continue.
The Navy went through a similar process.
When the decision was made to cut the size of the 370,000-strong naval force in 2004, the number of sailors who left due to misconduct and other behavior issues grew. In 2006, more than 8,400 sailors left due to conduct issues.
Full article: AP Exclusive: Misconduct Forces More Soldiers Out (AP)