In the wake of recent scandals involving America’s most elite military troops, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command has ordered a comprehensive review of the culture and ethics of special operations forces.
“Recent incidents have called our culture and ethics into question and threaten the trust placed in us,” Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) wrote in a memo sent to the forces under his command.
“As a result, I am initiating a comprehensive review of Special Operations Forces (SOF) culture and ethics,” he added. “The review will gather insights and observations from across our force and will draw upon the unique perspectives of leaders from internal and external entities,” he added.
Clarke said the review would look at all facets of special operations culture including, recruiting, selection, training, ethics education and how ethical failures are addressed.
“The American people must trust those who protect, including the special operations professions in this Command,” Clarke wrote. “This trust is paramount and must never be compromised.”
“Most importantly, recognize this review as an opportunity to strengthen our values and reinforce trust,” said Clarke.
Over the past two years elite special operations forces have been involved in high-profile scandals involving alleged criminal behavior.
That includes two members of the elite Seal Team 6 and two special operations Marines who were charged in the 2017 death in Mali of Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar.
In the prosecution of Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, charged with killing a detainee in Iraq, Gallagher was found not guilty of murder and attempted murder charges, but guilty on charges of posing with the man’s corpse.
Army Green Beret Maj. Mathew Golsteyn is facing a court-martial for the death of an Afghan man whom he had detained.
Clarke wrote that the review would be concluded later this fall and encouraged forces under his command to be “open and candid.”
“This is about making us better,” he said.
Earlier this year SOCOM carried out a congressionally mandated, comprehensive review of the command’s ethics and professional training and found that no systemic issues were to blame for the incidents of misconduct. But in a report to Congress, SOCOM said it was pursuing changes to improve that training, particularly when it comes to moral decision making.
Two weeks ago the head of the Navy’s Special Warfare Command issued a letter to his forces calling for a return to “good order and discipline” following a spate of incidents involving bad behavior by Navy SEALs.
“I want all hands to understand that ‘we have a problem’ and that this is our main effort and my top priority,” wrote Rear Adm. Collin Green in a July 25 letter to Naval Special Warfare (NSW) obtained by ABC News.
“I don’t know yet if we have a culture problem, I do know that we have a good order and discipline problem that must be addressed immediately,” wrote Green.
He directed SEAL leaders to provide him a written plan of action by Aug. 7 that details how teams will address ethics concerns. He also ordered leaders to “engage everyone in your formations,” including those deployed overseas, about the problem.