Ethical Issues Facing the Army Leadership Today Term Paper

Pages: 9 (3173 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military


They are Larry Welch, a former Air Force chief of staff, and John Harvey, a retired Nay admiral and nuclear-trained surface warfare officer." (ABC 7, 2014). Significantly, both the Air Force and the Navy nuclear forces recently endured instances in which there was cheating on crucial examinations utilized to determine competence for important positions. These instances were reported in the media, and the armed forces has responded by investigating these allegations -- which is the first step towards prevent further instances of unethical behavior.

Another point of interest related to these two occurrences of unethical behavior is that "Neither of those fields was directly involved in significant ways in either of the wars since 2001" (ABC 7, 2014). This point takes on even greater imminence in light of the fact that many people, both within the military and outside of it and most especially the media, seem to link the fact that The United States has been in a constant state of war for the past two decades with the rising instances of unethical behavior. There are still prevailing ethics in combat situations, granted. Still, these ethics seem to be a lot less stringent than those in non-combat situations, as well as those which prevail during times of peace. According to Baldor (2014), the military accounted for the need to train and deploy soldiers in combat situations since virtually the beginning of this millennium by emphasizing a "greater focus on battle competence than on character."Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Ethical Issues Facing the Army Leadership Today Assignment

Despite whatever truth that may lie in such a statement, it is clear that the way in which the military can reduce unethical behavior in combat situations (such as which was observed in a recent video in which soldiers in which Marines in Afghanistan were observed urinating on a deceased member of the Taliban) (Bowman, 2014) is by establishing a strong ethical culture in its respective organizations. It is equally as important to emphasize the need for ethical behavior as well as that for combat readiness -- synthesizing both of these forms of preparation will only assist the military over time. It is necessary to realize that traditionally the U.S. military has striven to provide such a synthesis of values. However, it appears that the immediacy of combat situations has superseded the call for ethics as of late.

To truly establish a culture of organization-wide ethics such as the armed forces needs to do requires more than merely having documents written down denoting expressly what is and what is not ethical behavior. The U.S. military currently has no shortage of this sort of rhetoric; its creation has never been the problem -- following it has been. Therefore, it is quite necessary for the military begin implementing ethical behavior from a top-down approach. Those who have the most authority in the military and who are the highest-ranking officers must come to exemplify the virtues of ethics that the organization as a whole would like to see practiced. As previously indicated, some of the more major ethical misconduct in recent times has involved ranking officers and even generals (Baldor, 2014). It is necessary then, to illustrate the fact that straying from ethical behavior will not be tolerated. Disciplinary measures should be taken (the more austere the better) to demonstrate to the entire organization that military leadership not only is accountable to the same ethics that the organization as a whole embraces, but also has an even greater responsibility to showcase ethical behavior than others. Severely disciplining those in leadership positions who are responsible for ethics violations sends a clear message that from an organizational perspective, moral behavior is mandatory at all times and any points of deviation will be dealt with harshly.

Ultimately, the ability to maintain a strong ethical culture throughout the military will require supervision measures for properly ensuring that such behavior is being followed. Such supervision must include the actions and behavior of the highest ranking military officials, the "military brass" who "live apart from society" and are inundated with "The sense of, on the one hand, pride, but maybe a little sense of entitlement too" (Bowman, 2014). The goal of targeting military leadership for accountability and exemplary ethical behavior is to show lower-ranking officers that such virtuous ways are necessary to attain such positions. Thus, they will be more inclined to follow these models and see them as core requisites of enrolling in the military. There are even some measures that have recently been implemented in which "Lower-ranking service members are being asked to evaluate their higher-ranking superiors as part of the annual performance reviews. That process is being slowly expanded" (Baldor, 2014). The focus of these efforts is to drastically increase the measure of ethics accountability for ranking military personnel, and to hold them to the same standards as those that apply to the rest of the organizations. In such a way, the benefits of power within the organization will be less likely to corrupt.

Additionally, it is necessary to augment this top-down approach with a renewed emphasis on ethics at the training level for entry positions in the military. This includes working with cadets in military schools as well as stressing to new recruits the prominent role which ethics is to play in the military from an organization-wide perspective. It was recently revealed that Hagel is in the process of appointing an officer to oversee the implementation of ethics within the military from an organization-wide perspective that is focused on both lower and higher ranking officers (Baldor, 2014). By emphasizing ethics at both ends of the personnel spectrum, the military should be able to achieve its objective of implementing ethical behavior as a core part of its organizational culture.

The final component of this process of effectively redirecting the military's organizational culture to one in which ethics plays a central role is to integrate ethics into the ethical decision-making process. Doing so will require establishing and creating action from organizational values and beliefs pertaining to ethical behavior. As previously mentioned, identifying such values is not difficult; each branch of the armed services has values upon which its ethics is based. For instance, some of the values in the Army include loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor and integrity (U.S. Army, no date p. 15). However, the key factor in acting ethically based on those values pertains to ensuring that the spirit of those values is maintained with one's actions. By utilizing a centralized values system to guide the direction of its organization, the military and its personnel can ensure that acting on the value of loyalty does not include engaging in unethical behavior, such as acting complicit with the unethical behavior of other military personnel. Thus, the values of the respective branches of the military can guide their organizations in an ethical manner.

In retrospect, it is efficacious to approach the facilitation of a renewed interest in ethical behavior in the armed forces from two perspectives -- from an individual and an organizational stance. The reality is that both of these perspectives, if properly implemented, will ultimately reinforce one another and make it possible for moral standards and ethics to effectively govern the behavior of military personnel. For this dual-pronged approach to work, the military must remember that it is ultimately seeking to elicit positive change for the greater good of the public. The methods that one takes to achieve one's objectives determine how noble those objectives are. It little matters if the military is able to preserve freedom, if it goes about doing so in an unethical fashion that is detrimental to others.


Various branches of the United States military have recently encountered a number of issues regarding ethical behavior. The issues that have been reported in the media are merely a microcosm of the issues the armed forces faces today. Such behavior is never acceptable, becomes all the more tolerable in light of the public's perception of organizations and organizational culture purportedly focused on creating positive change and creating beneficence for the general public. This document seeks to examine the questions of ethics facing the military from a dual perspective. It considers the implications and various stages of development for ethics for the individual, and does the same for the armed forces as an organization. At the individual level, ethical behavior or unethical behavior can spur further ethical or unethical behavior.

However, there are certain facets of organizational constructs that can assert influence upon the individual. Some of these influences can result in a form of mob rule in which individuals are sufficiently swayed by their peers and superiors to support and engage in actions which they otherwise would not. This facet of the military as an organization where such influence is prevalent (particularly with its chain of command) and the emerging combat situation with the War on Terror in which it has been engaged in since the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Ethical Issues Facing the Army Leadership Today.  (2014, June 26).  Retrieved August 1, 2021, from

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"Ethical Issues Facing the Army Leadership Today."  June 26, 2014.  Accessed August 1, 2021.