Pentagon Troubled by 'Breakdown in Ethical Behavior'

Defense Department to study nuclear cheating scandals to determine scope of moral corruption. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel answers reporters' questions during a news conference with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Pentagon Jan. 24, 2014, in Arlington, Va.

Two retired four-star generals will lead a review of the entire military nuclear program ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel following a cheating scandal at the Navy's nuclear school.

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of the military’s entire nuclear enterprise, following a string of scandals he believes could represent “a breakdown in ethical behavior” in the military. 

Two retired four-star generals will lead the review, announced from the Pentagon press podium nearly 24 hours after the Navy’s top officers told reporters about a so far undefined cheating scandal at the Navy’s nuclear school. That news followed reports in mid-January that 34 troops at an Air Force facility that houses America’s nuclear arsenal had also been caught cheating on proficiency tests.

[READ: Navy Investigating Reports of Cheating By Nuke Instructors

“It’s a problem right now that is impossible to characterize specifically,” said Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby. “[Hagel] is generally concerned that there could be at least some level of a breakdown in ethical behavior and in the demonstration of moral courage.” 

When asked to define those traits more clearly, Kirby offered, “doing the right thing when nobody is looking. Treating people the right way even if they can’t do anything for you. It’s the basic idea behind strapping on this uniform every day.”

This review is the latest in a string ordered by Hagel, including a review into security at military facilities worldwide following the Navy Yard shooting, a review of the service academies’ policies regarding sexual assaults and harassment, and a review supervised by Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey into ethical issues within the highest echelons of the officer corps. 

Hagel is looking for “more tangible efforts and results that can get at this problem,” Kirby said Wednesday. 

“There must be more urgency behind these efforts,” he said. “This has to be a constant focus. This has to be something [Hagel and] the service chiefs are thinking about, thinking about and acting upon everyday.”

[ALSO: Fact Checking the Obama Strategy for Iran's Nukes

Hagel sees this as a growing problem, Kirby said, and he is concerned about “the depth of it.” 

“As a department, we don’t fully know right now what we’re grappling with here,” he said. 

Retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch, the former Air Force chief of staff, and retired Navy Adm. John Harvey, the former commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, will head up the review announced Wednesday.