The Military's Encyclopedia of Ethical Failures

Monday, February 03, 2014

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during a press briefing on the Pentagon's Fiscal Year 2014 budget at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on April 10, 2013. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty)

"The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failures" sounds like whimsical title for a high-brow novel, something that would be right up there with "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," "The Relief of Unbearable Urges," or "The Elegance of the Hedgehog."

But it's actually a bureaucratic laundry list of the wrong-doings of government employees put together by the Department of Defense. The infractions it lists are sometimes pathetic, sometimes serious, and sometimes laughable—but they are true through and through, and they are extensive.   

One ethical failure points to a first lieutenant who had to pay $120,000 in fines for accepting bribes from contractors. And then there is the Air Force and Marine generals and a Navy admiral, who together billed the government $3,000 to stay in Tokyo to play golf after their work there was complete.

Gordon Lubold, a national security reporter for Foreign Policy has studied this encyclopedia at length. He walks us through the highlights of this report—from the funniest violations to the most egregious.


Gordon Lubold

Produced by:

Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [4]

Carlos Fiol from Plano, Texas

I’m a former Army Officer. I am skeptical of the stories and their factual nature based off of story that led the piece. It was either inaccurate or some facts were written incorrectly. A lieutenant outranks a master sergeant. There would never be a situation in the military where a MSG would order a Lt. to move stuff, especially personal property to his/her house. A MSG is a Non-Commissioned Officer and a Lt. is a Commissioned Officer. This story just didn’t make sense. I am sure there are many stories that actually happened; I am leery about how the accounts have been recorded and transmitted.

Feb. 03 2014 01:11 PM
Trey from Detroit

I recall that D.O.D. civilian employees were enjoined from accepting gifts from say, federal contractors, in th mid-1960s that were not immediately consumed, e.g., a lunch or a dinner. Under President Carter, even those were forbidden. After all these years, I am sure that the 'encyclopedia' is aimed at reminding th generals tht for ths purpose, they are employees, and not permitted to accept favors for anyone with whom they do business just as lower-ranked staff may not.

Feb. 03 2014 01:06 PM
Nooney from Washington

My military daughter was strangled and thrown off a second floor balcony by her military husband (amazingly, so survived!). This happened off-base in Japan. He was convicted and did 3 years hard labor, all the while telling his lawyer that when he got out he planned on finishing the job. Within a month of his release from prison, I received a letter thanking me for my "son's" service and in the letter was included his certificate for HONORABLE DISCHARGE FROM THE MILITARY!!!!

Feb. 03 2014 01:02 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

You know, some people will read "The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure" as a challenge to the much larger book of "Ethical Failure Which Has Never Been Revealed."

Feb. 03 2014 12:59 PM

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