Ripped from the Headlines: Army’s Top Brass Gave General’s Behavior a Pass


By Frank Ruelas

Now of course I am not going to cut and paste the entire article that appeared in USA Today which describes how a 2 star general, his behavior, and how his treatment brings into question the consistency of the Army’s compliance program…but let’s at least look at this as a compare and contrast exercise and see how some of the article may represent what we may have experienced within our own organizations.  For those that may wish, the article can be accessed at  The portions of the blog in quotes were taken directly from the cited article.

“After the report was received and signed by top Army officials in September 2010, Maj. Gen. John Custer, commander of the Army’s intelligence school at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., faced public shaming and the loss of rank”  OK, not bad.  This represents how the compliance program responded to and investigated a report of noncompliance related to the general’s reported behavior.  This is encouraging as certainly response and its effectiveness is a core element of a compliance program.

“Custer’s case, and Dempsey’s intervention, were kept in the dark by the Army for years. The matter came to light only after a whistle-blower complained to USA TODAY, which then obtained the report through a Freedom of Information Act request.”  Aha…let’s hear it for whistleblowers as sometimes this is how we find out about stuff like this.  I know that some people attach a stigma to the term “whistleblower” but I think that is more a product of the reaction by people who the whistleblower may implicate.  When I realize the purposes that provide for whistleblower protection,  I also realize that it comes at a cost.  There may be folks who claim to be a whistleblower but in the end, they may represent disgruntled employees that are trying to create issues where none exist.  Though this may be frustrating in some cases, it is in my opinion a small cost to pay given the benefit that comes from listening to whistleblowers that present in good faith their concerns.

“The discipline process is opaque. When it comes to generals, it’s a blackout,” Oops.  Looks like we have another speed bump!  But before we all shout “Shame on you Army!”, let’s take a moment to reflect.  Can we honestly say that discipline in our own organizations is equal and just across all “ranks” of our organization from the “generals” down through the entire chain of command?

“Custer’s story shows how the top brass’ public pronouncements of zero tolerance for sexual misconduct don’t match the private, preferential treatment they offer to one of their own.”  OK…this is now sounding all too familiar.  Don’t we also hear or read about zero tolerance policies within our own organizations while at the same time experiencing situations where when we raised the topic of “zero tolerance” perhaps to support our level of recommended sanctions…maybe that zero meter didn’t necessarily stay on zero?

These are just a few excerpts of examples ripped from USA Today’s headlines of which there are at least a dozen more in the article.  I was careful to be selective not because I was trying to stack the deck in my favor to prove any points, but because the other examples are more linked to and describe some

of the general’s behavior which I am very positive most people would find appalling given his position and rank within the Army.

So my takeaways are that the compliance professionals that are working in some of the largest and most established organizations in the world deal with many of the same issues that may exist in just about any if not all organizations.  On that note, on some level, all of us who are compliance professionals share the same pain.

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