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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has tapped a two-star admiral and former Naval Academy commandant to serve as his “senior adviser for military professionalism,” a newly created position to tackle military ethics problems.
The selection of Rear Adm. Margaret “Peg” Klein comes more than a month after Hagel declared military ethics to be a top concern in response to a string of embarrassing incidents involving misconduct in the ranks.
Klein will “focus on ethics, character, and competence in all activities at every level of command with an uncompromising culture of accountability. This will continue to be a top priority for DoD’s senior leadership,” Hagel said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
Klein is a pilot who flew EC-130 Compass Calls and E-6 Mercury aircraft. She served as the No. 2 officer at the Naval Academy and, most recently, as chief of staff for U.S. Cyber Command.
At the Naval Academy in 2007, Klein launched a program that aimed to educate midshipmen about the effects of alcohol by giving them drinks on their 21st birthday and, under supervision of an instructor with a breathalyzer device, encouraging them to reach a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration.
Hagel said in February that he fears there may be a deep and systemic problem within the military culture. Reports of scandals have persisted for months, including allegations of cheating, fraud, alcohol abuse, drugs and sexual misconduct.
“Some of our people are failing short of these high standards and expectations,” Hagel said in February. “We need to find out: Is there a deep, wide problem? If there is, then what is the scope of that problem? How did this occur? Was it a constant focus of 12 years on two long land wars taking our emphasis off some of these other areas? I don’t know. We intend to find out.”
On Monday Hagel hosted high-level, closed-door meetings with top military and civilian leaders, and a primary topic was “military professionalism,” a Pentagon spokesman said.
Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke directly to the force in a one-minute video that was posted online.
“The respect our military has earned is built on the character of our people, military and civilian alike. It must never be taken for granted,” Hagel said.
“That’s why we must rekindle within the force both our understanding and our resolve as a profession,” Dempsey added. “We must strengthen the enduring norms and values that define us and continue to be a source of trust and pride for our nation — together, we must step up to this challenge.”