January 21, 2013

Sex is major reason military commanders are fired

At least 30 percent of commanders who lost their jobs over the last eight years were done in by offenses such as harassment, adultery and improper relationships, statistics show.

The Associated Press

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Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, fired from his command in Afghanistan last May and now facing a court-martial on charges of sodomy, adultery and pornography and more, is just one in a long line of commanders whose careers were ended because of possible sexual misconduct.

Army File Photo via The Associated Press

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He and other military leaders agree that poor leadership, bad judgment, and ethical lapses, rather than operational failures, are growing factors in the firings. But Kirby said it's not clear whether that has anything to do with the strains of the past 10 years at war or simply reflects deteriorating morals among the general population.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the ethics review in November. He said that "when lapses occur, they have the potential to erode public confidence in our leadership and in our system for the enforcement of our high ethical standards. Worse, they can be detrimental to the execution of our mission to defend the American people."

Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women's Action Network, said there is more focus on this issue now than ever in the past, but that there really is no sufficient deterrent in place. She said a major problem is that military commanders are responsible for deciding what cases should move forward.

She said military lawyers, who are trained and have a greater appearance of impartiality, should make such an important legal decision.

The statistics gathered and analyzed by the AP represent a very conservative estimate of the problem. While the Army, Navy and Marine Corps provided details for all military commanders who were lieutenant colonels or commanders and above for 2005 until now, Air Force officials said they could only provide data for colonels and above from 2008 until today.

Also, the figures reflect only officers who were in command positions. The numbers don't include what could be hundreds of officers fired from other jobs, such as administrative or other military posts. Military officials said they only collect data on officers in command who are fired.

The reasons for the firings are also murky. In some cases, no reason was listed; in other cases, it was vague – such as "ethics" or "leadership" or for fostering a bad command climate.

There also are varying degrees of publicity when such action is taken.

In Sinclair's case, the charges and impending court martial have received extensive coverage. The five pages of allegations, which involve his conduct with five women who were not his wife, include one count of forcible sodomy, two counts of wrongful sexual conduct, six counts of inappropriate sexual relationships, and eight counts of violating regulations. He could receive life in prison if convicted.

But in many other cases, particularly of those below the rank of general, there is little public notice if the senior officer is in the Army or Air Force. The Navy, however, issues a public statement every time a commander is removed from a job.

The figures also highlight the Navy's reputation for being quick to justice. Although it is the second smallest of the four military services, the Navy has relieved the most commanders, 99, over the past eight years. By comparison, it was 83 for the Army, 41 for the Marines and 32 for the Air Force.

Dismissing a commander from a job does not mean that officer is forced out of the military. In some of the more serious cases, officers may be discharged or forced to resign. But in many other cases, service members may go on to another job for some time.

Still, a dismissal often signals the end of an officer's career, and with no chance for promotion, officers will often retire or leave the service.

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