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US Special Operations Command chief orders culture and ethics review

General Richard D. Clarke in Poland in 2016. He was the then commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division. Today he is a 4-Star General and is the new Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. (Sgt. 1st Class Alexander Burnett/U.S. Army)
August 13, 2019

The head of Special Operations Command (SOC) Gen. Richard D. Clark on Friday ordered a full review of special forces behavior and ethics to be completed by the fall of 2019

Gen. Clarke ordered the review to begin immediately and cover how special operations troops are selected and trained, how they are educated on ethics, and how failures in ethics are handled by commanders, according to his letter addressed to “All Members of SOC Command,” which was first obtained by NBC News on Monday.

Clarke’s written statements on Aug. 12 reflect a report he made on Apr. 9, 2019, in front of the House Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee.

“In the recent past, members of our Special Operations Forces (SOF) units have been accused of violating that trust and failing to meet our high standards of ethical conduct this command demands,” said Clarke.

“The overwhelming majority of our teammates continue to serve with honor and distinction as our ethos demands, and anything less than 100% is unacceptable. We understand that criminal misconduct erodes the very trust that enables our success,” he added.

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The (SOC) review will cover all of the military’s elite forces including: Army Special Forces, Navy SEALS, Delta Force, Army Rangers and Air Force Special Tactics squadrons.

Reported incidents by some members of special forces in the recent past have triggered the review. These high-profile events include accusations – and in some cases convictions – of crimes such as smuggling cocaine, rape, drug and alcohol abuse, and other offenses.

Gen. Clarke ended his comments by stating that, “We recognize this review as an opportunity to strengthen our values and reinforce trust.”

Gen. Clarke is the 12th commander of United States Special Operations Command, a position he assumed on Mar. 29, 2019. He served in the Gulf War, War in Afghanistan, Iraq War, and Operation Inherent Resolve.

In addition to Gen. Clarke’s comments, the top Navy SEAL gave commanders a deadline of Tuesday, Aug. 13 to report back to him with recommendations on how to fix ethical and credibility issues facing the elite naval special warfare community following several high profile incidents of misconduct.

“We have a problem,” Rear Adm. Collin Green wrote in a letter addressed to the secretive force.

Green, who leads Naval Special Warfare Command, did not single out a particular incident but implied that the erosion of the public’s trust is at stake.

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On July 24, the U.S. Special Operations Command announced that a platoon of San Diego-based SEALs was sent home from Iraq “due to a perceived deterioration of good order and discipline within the team during non-operational periods.” Those SEALs are being investigated for sexual assault and unauthorized alcohol use in a combat zone.