Ethics Advisor Focuses on Building Trust

Story by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kayla Jo Finley, DoD News

Graphic: DoD graphic by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kayla Jo Finley/Released

(DoD graphic by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kayla Jo Finley/Released)

In March of this year Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel chose Navy Rear Adm. Margaret “Peg” Klein to serve as his senior advisor for military professionalism.  During a recent interview, Klein described trust as the most important element for improvement.

“Everything we do depends on trust,” she said.  She describes trust as the most important element because of the components that fall under it.  Accountability and character development are two of those components, which are areas that are on the top of her list.

Klein, who reports directly to Hagel, coordinates the actions of the Joint Staff, the combatant commands and the military services.  She also works directly with the service secretaries and chiefs on the Defense Department’s focus on ethics, character and competence in all activities at every level of command.

According to Klein, due to the series of incidents in previous years, the secretary wanted a more singular focus on ways the DoD could improve the level of professionalism.  “The goal of my office is to look at the best practices across the services and up our game.”

The main problem she sees is as simple as the fact that we are all just human beings.

“Human beings are imperfect,” said Klein.  “We set up training programs, we set up technology and we set up a hierarchy to enforce good behavior but every once in a while humans do make mistakes.”

To begin her new mission, Klein looked at all the incidents that occurred the last time there was a big discussion.  “I gathered up all the press reports of what’s been in the news and really there wasn’t one [particular type of] incident.”

Through her research, she discovered there were different categories that incidents fell under.  The categories had two different sides: criminal and performance problems.  In the middle of the two sides were the categories of ethical misconduct and behavior.

The categories in the middle were the ones that needed better understanding.

“What we really need to understand better is what character development programs would help make humans make better decisions,” she said.

To find the best programs, Klein and her team evaluated programs that are already in place. “We baseline those programs and then we look at the best practices and move forward.”

Klein has been given two years to carry out her mission of determining the most-effective programs for improving the level of professionalism in the military.

“My vision is that we see trust as the foundation that makes us an effective fighting force. I have to look at the components of trust and make sure that we are training our people on how important trust is.”


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Ethics Advisor Focuses on Building Trust